Relatively Speaking is the comedy which in 1967 gave Alan Ayckbourn his first West End hit. Almost 50 years later, Robin Herford’s production of Relatively Speaking, jointly presented by The Theatre Royal Bath Productions and Kenny Wax Ltd is touring nationwide. On 19th September, the production, starring acclaimed TV and stage actors Liza Goddard and Robert Powell, made its way to The Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield.
The play introduces a young couple, Greg (Antony Eden) and Ginny (Lindsey Campbell). Although they have only been together a month, Greg has decided that Ginny is the girl he wants to spend the rest of his life with. So when Ginny tells him she is going to visit her parents for the weekend, he spontaneously decides to follow behind her, and to ask her father for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Discovering a scribbled address on a cigarette packet, Greg makes his way to Buckinghamshire where he meets Phillip (Robert Powell) and Sheila (Liza Goddard). However, they are not Ginny’s parents…
From then on, the play creates a cleverly crafted chain of misunderstandings and mistaken identities. Ayckbourn manages to not only drag out the misunderstandings, but also add to the layers of confusion as the play progresses. Only the audience know exactly what is going on and who is who, and as the mess evolves on stage the play gets more and more frustrating to watch, and consequently, funnier and funnier.
The older couple in the piece were not only the most well-known out of the four cast members, but also the star performers. Robert Powell and Liza Goddard play Philip and Sheila seemingly effortlessly and work together brilliantly on stage.
The production is firmly set in the 1960s, as it has to be for the themes to be racy and taboo, and the staging and set design reflects that, as well as bringing a sense a realism and domestic reality to the play. The first set, of Sheila’s apartment, is full of small details such as a smoke-stained ceiling, which not only set the time period, but also make her small apartment feel realistic and lived-in. The second set is of Philip and Sheila’s front garden, which is separated from the first with a curtain. It is big and impressive, showing the exterior of their two-story home, with a simple set of lace table and chairs centre of stage.
Relatively Speaking is a clever, unpredictable, hilarious play and this excellent production guarantees laughter throughout.