There was a time when I couldn't stand Alan Ayckbourn's plays; the problem is that I can't remember exactly why, other than it had something to do with the way that he seemed to sneer and laugh at the very people that made up his audience. Of course that was probably what he was trying to do. The thing is that, in the case of this play, he created a group of very unsympathetic characters almost fitting into stereotypes: the upper middle class couple, polite but grounded in their superiority; the intellectual couple who can’t quite cope with the world and the chiselling lower middle class box-wallah couple who act almost as the nemesis for the rest.
This difficulty for the audience in caring about the cast wasn't helped in the production by the glacial pace of the first act. Still worse were the several occasions when the stage was left empty and the silence in the theatre was so profound that I imagined hearing conversations of passengers as their tube trains rattled past a few feet from the auditorium. Perhaps this will be seen as an exciting and dangerous innovation by the time the production gets reviewed.
I can't help feeling that this production has been a bit rushed. It was only announced a few weeks back as a replacement for Bad Girls so it was possibly being prepared for a tour. The odd month of single week-long runs around the country would probably have knocked things into shape and certainly would have upped the speed and the laugh count.
As it was my companions for the evening decided that they'd had enough after the first act and left. This was a bit of a pity because the play picked up in the second and third acts. They also missed David Bamber stripping down to his vest which was remarkable because he seems to have acquired the arms and torso of a body builder. He looked a bit like Brad Pitt's body double and I half expected him to start shouting “Stella, Stella” and stalk off looking for a Blanche Dubois to ravish.
Another oddish thing was that David Horovitch seemed to be channelling William Franklyn. It suited his character quite well but it was strange to see.