"the gross and scope of my opinion ..." Hamlet I,1.
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
up, maybe, by the success of Neville's Island – real trees, real
island with water deep enough to drown in – Chichester have boldly
ventured Way Upstream with Ayckbourn.
his best play, remembered chiefly for the water tank which caused the
National Theatre so much trouble back in '82. Like
Ayckbourn's oeuvre, it starts as a domestic comedy of manners, and
ends up as something much darker – and not merely dark, but
if it must be refloated, it's hard to imagine it done better than
here in the CFT, directed by Nadia Fall. There's an excellent cast,
and an incredibly ambitious staging, designed
by Ben Stones, with
a real Hadforth Bounty moving
convincingly around the river, a great forest behind as a backdrop,
and retractable riverbanks on either side.
set in those distant 80s, so no mobiles, and colleagues address each
other as Mr and Mrs. On
the cassette player, Bach, James Last, and after the final collapse
of civilization, William Byrd for brass. The
shadows on the cabin blinds – we never see inside the “floating
rabbit hutch” - the fight in the water, the bridges and the
rainstorm, all superbly done. Even the strangely surreal ending, in
which the only two likeable characters are pursued beyond the limit
of navigation to start a new life post Armageddon, is successfully
are Jill Halfpenny as Emma,
and Jason Hughes as hopeless Alistair, the worm who finally turns and
brains his tormentor with a can of beans.
is Jason Durr's Vince, the knight in shining armour turned cuckoo in
the nest, a “victim of the system” whose veneer of charm soon
wears off to reveal the bully beneath.
Forbes is hilarious as Keith, all bluster and pomposity as the
skipper; Sarah Parish is priceless as his less than enthusiastic
wife, sunbathing on the tiny deck, flirting with Vince and making a
complete fool of herself in an ill-advised drunken reprise of her
youthful stage persona.
simple idea is surprisingly effective amid the technology and the
heavy symbolism: between scenes, the actors fast forward in sharp,
jerky movements as the music track distorts.