Friday, November 04, 2011


Greville Theatre Club at the Barn Theatre Little Easton

This early Ayckbourn was a huge success at the time, and has remained popular ever since.
In a typically clever staging, it takes a wry look at relationships, superimposing two living rooms and two dinner parties, as ordinary mortals practise to deceive.

Greville, in John Richardon's assured production, rose to the challenge admirably, helped by an ingenious set[Richard Pickford and Steve Bradley] and impressive period detail [the wallpaper, the Ewbank, the all-important phones, the polo-neck shirt].

They fielded an experienced sextet of actors who between them recalled much of the best British comedy acting of the decades since 1969 – shades of Pythons, hints of Little Britain.

David Bone was the “hopeless” Frank, unable to complete the most basic task or the simplest sentence, with Madeline Harmer effortlessly elegant as his “rich old boot” of a wife. She's having a fling with the awful MCP Bob [a very convincing, nuanced character from Steve Braham], who's married to sulky, dozy Terri [the excellent Carol Parradine, wonderful as she reached the end of her tether as she knocked back the dinner party vino]. The seventh character, thankfully never seen except in photographic form, is ”big, fat, spoilt” baby Benjamin.

The dinner party guests – the slightly creepy Featherstones – were played by Jonathan Scripps as William, and Sonia Lindsey-Scripps superb as the nervy Mary. Her portrayal was faultlessly sustained, and she got a well-deserved round on her exit line.

The set pieces were done with confident aplomb, and while I can imagine a production in the tenth week of a national tour achieving an even slicker pace and rapider repartee, we had nothing but admiration for the carefully crafted climaxes, the parallel menus, the phone quartet at the end, and of course the conflation of two dinner parties from hell, with the famous stage direction “William and Mary swivel”.

How The Other Half Loves was produced by Jan Ford, and directed by John Richardson, who sadly died very suddenly on Sunday 23rd October.

Greville dedicated the performances to his memory, and their tribute read, in part:

JR as he was affectionately known, was one of the kindest of men and contributed fully to so many aspects of our productions.

John was keen to direct "How The Other Half Loves" and was totally committed to the enterprise. We know that he would have wanted us to complete his handiwork and present his vision to our audiences. We will all miss him greatly.

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