Thursday, November 19, 2009
Round and Round the Garden - by Alan Ayckbourn
Round and Round the Garden is the last of The Norman Conquests trilogy. Again, the same group, the same country house where the sibling's mother (who likes to be read racy novels and apparently carried on with all sorts right under their father's nose) is dying upstairs. The same weekend. This time they are in the garden, and appropriately, everything gets aired out - and there are a few rolls in the grass that shed new light on what was simmering under the surface in the living room and the dining room.
And it should also be said, the same structure in each play. Two acts. Two scenes per act. Each scene ends with the disaster or the cri de couer that propels the next scene - or at the end that sums up the entire play - from Norman's point of view - and really his is the one that matters since he's started all the problem that got the play moving, and ends the play by causing just one more catastrophe.
Earlier in this series I read an early Ayckbourn play, Relatively Speaking, a comedy of mistaken identities, marriages and infidelities - actual and suspected. The material here in this later play (1973) is similar, infidelities and marriages but this one has a much deeper tap root. There's a quiet pathos underneath the play as well as a delight in the ridiculousness of people navigating the confines of family and commitment. And maybe that's what makes the comedy successful, that we can laugh at these people condemned to each other's company, seeking to get away from one another by any means necessary and delight at the end when Norman, who's managed to get kisses from each of the women, as well as painted pictures of weekends away with them - and quite possibly the men as well - conspires to wreck the cars so that they'll all need to stay another day together.