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A CurtainUp London Review
The play opens in Greg (Max Bennett) and Ginny (Kara Tointon)' London bedsit. Ginny is taking phone calls from a secret admirer, secret from Greg that is, and she is planning a visit to the Buckinghamshire countryside to see “her parents”. When Greg asks to come with her, she refuses. Ginny leaves and Greg sets out having found the address written on a piece of paper. None of this would be possible today with the use of the mobile phone.
Scene Two sees the train route lit up on a map of the Home Counties and behind a hedge of clipped box, in a wisteria covered house, Sheila (Felicity Kendall) and her husband Philip (Jonathan Coy) are enjoying a leisurely Sunday breakfast in their garden. Arriving first, because Ginny walked and missed the first train, is Greg who introduces himself to the man that he supposes is Ginny's father and tells Sheila he has come down to propose to Ginny. The double entendre is set up when Philip becomes convinced that Greg is Sheila's secret lover and nothing that Greg says clears up the confusion.
After the interval, Ginny arrives and it emerges (but not for Greg or Sheila) that she used to work with Philip and had an affair with him. She has come on a Sunday because Sheila normally goes to church. The misunderstandings multiply in a delicious way and we are in the grip of a clever, deftly directed and brilliantly acted West End farce.
Peter McKintosh's twin sets show London bedsit land with film posters on the walls contrasting with the country house of “The Willows” with its large garden. Howard Harrison's lighting gives us the sunshine at midday.
Felicity Kendall is in her element as Philip's tolerant and understanding wife, while not really understanding at all. Her protestations that Ginny is not her daughter have been explained away by Ginny, saying she was adopted, and so these meet Greg's condemnation for her lack of maternal feeling.
Max Bennett is a fresh talent as Greg and Kara Tointon always sounds rather less well spoken than we would expect the girl from Bucks to be and acts beautifully. Jonathan Coy, more manipulative, tries to turn the situation to his advantage by inveigling Ginny to accept a six week holiday away with him but will get his comeuppance.
Relatively Speaking is frivolous, witty and very well done. The programme tells us that Noel Coward sent Alan Ayckbourn a telegram in 1967 congratulating him on “a beautifully constructed and very, very funny comedy. I enjoyed every moment of it.” I can only echo the Master.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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