If you have never been to a Galleon performance, you are missing a treat. From the welcoming glass of sherry, courtesy of Patritti Wines, to the delightful Domain theatre with its combination of cabaret style tables and tiered seating, to the friendly committee of volunteers and, of course, quality productions.
Their latest production is the 1969 Alan Ayckbourn comedy How The Other Half Loves, a farce following the consequences of an adulterous affair between a married man and his boss’s wife and their attempts to cover their tracks by roping in a third couple to be their unknowing alibi, resulting in an hilarious chain of misunderstandings, conflicts and revelations. It is set in a time where the class system was very much in evidence, divorce was frowned upon, men and women lived out traditional roles, and people called each other instead of texting.
Ayckbourn is a master playwright and his works play games with space and time. Here he overlaps two distinct households: one, the posh, upper-class Fosters; the other, the messy, middle-class Phillipses. Director Warren McKenzie ensures that the transitions are seamless and easy to follow, facilitated by the superbly designed set by Brittany Daw. It’s rather like watching a split screen on your computer!
This ensemble cast are, without exception, outstanding. This is a complex and challenging piece, and they cope admirably. Andrew Clark portrays the calculatedly vague Frank Foster with wonderful nuance. Joanne St Clair is brilliant as uppity and pretentious Fiona who displays a distinct lack of emotion at the unfolding drama her philandering has caused. The other philanderer, the self-absorbed Bob Phillips, Andy Steuart, is suitably smug. Leanne Robinson rounds out the cast, bringing to life Bob’s wife Teresa with feistiness, anger, humour, and vulnerability.
The hapless couple caught between these two are William Featherstone, a boring accounts clerk and his extremely timid wife Mary. The actors playing these roles, Aled Proeve and Brittany Daw, had evidently worked very hard to ensure their comic timing did justice to the synchronisation demanded by the script. This is most apparent in the dinner party scene, where the parties, held on successive nights, play out at the same time, with the Featherstones turning their heads at ever decreasing intervals from the Fosters’ table to the Phillipses. The timing is perfect; it is the stuff of classic British comedy.
My only criticism is one that I have with all Ayckbourn’s plays in that that some sections could be sped up or omitted without losing character development or comedic value. At 155 minutes including interval, it is a marathon for a farce of this nature.
Don’t miss it.