Thursday, October 15, 2009

Relatively Speaking - by Alan Ayckbourn

In his introduction Ayckbourn states that this play was written in response to a request from his theatre for a play that people on their beach holidays would enjoy when it was raining, before going back to their landladies. It's a comedy, two acts, two scenes per act, four actors - two couples that hinges on misunderstandings, lies and attempted cover-ups. None of the characters are particularly malicious, but nor are they above seeing gain from others confusions.

I laughed out loud quite a bit - and groaned some too. There's great layering and mirroring going on in the play. In scene one, morning, a girl is trying to get out of the apartment to visit her parents and her lover gets suspicious - the phone keeps ringing and someone hangs up - or she speaks cryptically only to announce a wrong number, he finds men's slippers under the bed, there are piles of flower bouquets stashed in the bathroom...her explanations are barely plausible - and then as she's about to leave - he opens a drawer to get something for her, pulls too hard and boxes of chocolates fly out. And then there's more.

Looking at it structurally - the first act sets up all the misunderstandings - and the second act unravels them. The fun is seeing who figures out what when and what they do with the information. And the character most reprehensible - the older married man carrying on an affair with the younger woman and continuing to bother her even though she's asked him to stop - is the one who gets the comeuppance - through his wife finally figuring out the truth of the situation, continuing the ruse and using it to her advantage - and for the young couple's happiness.

A perfect play for a rainy Sunday by the seaside. And after I'd like a glass of wine, a plate of oysters and my love to wittily banter with.

Then - questions for today - do we have light comedies? Are the stakes too high to write them? Do young writers write them - or avoid them, cause fellowship money, prizes, theatres who produce new writers don't typically do light comedies - and what's it matter? Are we losing something...or is tv full of this type of fare?

In this case the content is light - but all characters are treated with respect, are full and true, real emotion vs. manipulative lies are trotted out to solid effect - and it feels very human... that should have a place somewhere, but does it?

Or do we just do these old plays - and then it seems like these fine qualities are things of the past?

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