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Theatre Review: Relatively Speaking

Relatively Speaking is a play by British writer Alan Ayckbourn currently on stage at the Pumphouse Theatre in Auckland. It’s a comedy of manners and mistaken identity with a touch of farce that the British do so well, and this iteration is certainly well done and very amusing. 

Set in the late 1960s, it begins in a London flat where a very much in-love couple are cohabitating. Ginny (Michelle Blundell) is a vivacious young woman, but she has some secrets, and Greg (Benjamin Murray) is suspicious. They make an interesting duo – he’s surly, jealous, and somewhat cynical. She, is fun, but not altogether honest. Greg suspects she is, or has been seeing someone else, and, he’s right. 

When Ginny sets off supposedly to visit her parents in rural England, Greg follows, determined to meet her parents and find answers to a few of his nagging doubts. In a remote village Greg arrives first and introduces himself to the couple he wants to be his in-laws, Philip (Edwin Wright) and Sheila (Louise Wallace).

So sets off a wonderful story of intrigue and comedy. The cast were well chosen and very experienced. The dynamic between Wallace and Wright as an irascible long married couple was a delight. It really did seem as though they had been married for years.

Wallace brought a strong sense of old world British charm to the character of Sheila. She had that typical sensibility of not wanting to offend combined with a disarming and bumbling forgetfulness. Yet underneath, a steeliness that showed she knew what was going on.

Wright understood his role as Philip very well. A somewhat grumpy man who is completely bored in his marriage and wants to recapture his youth by dating beautiful younger women.

In reality, Philip is an inept philandering predator, but rather than darken the entire story, Wright’s comedic talent managed to create a character who actually just looked ridiculous and somewhat pathetic.

Blundell and Murray showed their comedic talents admirably as well, and Murray seemed to relish the moments he could go off half cocked into bizarre and hilarious monologues while others looked on with confused astonishment. I didn’t quite believe Greg and Ginny were ‘that’ in love, but it didn’t really matter, the dialogue and delivery were great. 

Ayckbourn’s script is astonishingly witty and complex and it is performed ably by a cast with expert timing and delivery that makes Relatively Speaking a delightfully enjoyable night at the theatre. 

RELATIVELY SPEAKING

3-14 May 2023

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