Review: Relatively Speaking

By Josie Balfour

THERE really are rather a lot of well written comic plays about the romantic folly of middle-aged, middle-class men of European origin who are bored with their wives and taken with a comely young lass who is herself in love with a handsome young man with prospects.

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Alan Ayckbourn’s Relatively Speaking is no different, although there is a delicious twist at the end that will entertain the wives of middle-aged men with a wandering eye no end.
The Edinburgh Makars do a serviceable job of bringing the play to life, there’s a great deal of confidence from the cast and the final act raised a great many laughs from the audience.

Director Jo Barrow cannily gives her actors lots of things to do while on stage that really pushes the momentum forward and allows the audience to invest in the characters as three dimensional entities.

The introduction of the couples is a tad sharp, although by the finale, one can’t help but warm to their charms. Dario Dalla Costa’s homely optimist Greg gives the production it’s heart while Derek Melon, as Philip, and Becky Dunn, as Ginny, provide the core of the drama. Anne Trotter’s batty, cheerful Sheila is a revelation in the production’s final scene.

All Edinburgh Theatre - Thom Dibden

Relatively Speaking
Published: August 11th, 2014

* * * Relatively successful

Murrayfield Parish Church Centre (Venue 104)
Wed 6 – Sat 16 Aug 2014
Review by Hugh Simpson

Slick, humorous and effective, the Edinburgh Makars’ production of Alan Ayckbourn’s Relatively Speaking can be counted as a success even if it never quite manages to locate the darker streak that characterises his work.
Review photo
Dario Dalla Costa, Anne Trotter and Derek Melon. Photo: Margaret Milne

The play that became Ayckbourn’s breakthrough hit in the 1960s features Greg and Ginny, a young couple contemplating marriage. Ginny, however, first needs to break things off with her older, married lover Philip. Greg, believing she is going to see her parents, decides to follow her. He ends up arriving first at the country home of Philip and his wife Sheila. Here, of course, is where the confusion begins….

Ayckbourn himself would probably admit that the opening scene of the play is not the strongest thing he has ever written. There is none of the economy in setting up the situation that characterises so much of his later work. Instead, everything seems to take an age; as a result, Dario Dalla Costa (Greg) and Becky Dunn (Ginny) struggle to get into their stride. Having the first interval after this scene simply adds to the feeling that nothing has really happened yet.
a glorious sequence of misrepresentations

This is soon rectified. The set is elegantly transformed from bedsit to country garden, and we are pitched into a glorious sequence of misrepresentations and conversations at cross purposes. Each time, there is a perfectly logical reason for the truth not to be discovered, and the cast excel in making things believable.

Derek Melon as Philip has just the right combination of bluster, self-importance and passive-aggressive sexism. Anne Trotter displays great timing as Sheila, nailing the bemusement and the humour of the role, if never really mastering the pain of someone who is reduced to inventing a non-existent lover to extract a measure of revenge on her husband.

Dalla Costa responds to the change in pace by turning in a very funny performance, while Dunn also ups her game, making Ginny a much more believable if perhaps slightly too bashful presence.

Jo Barrow’s direction also impresses, varying the pace effectively and ensuring that the series of mistaken-identity gags retain their freshness and variety. Technically, the whole production is impressive and it is noteworthy that energy levels do not drop, which could easily have been the case in a play of this length with only four characters.

Overall, the production is highly successful at mining the rich seam of humour in a piece that, despite a slow start, is tightly constructed and has stood the test of time remarkably well.

Running time 2 hours 30 minutes including 2 intervals

Murrayfield Parish Church Centre, 2b Ormidale Terrace, EH12 6EQ (Venue 104)
Wed 6 – Sat 16 August 2014
Daily at 7.30 pm (not Sun)