Living Together – St Jude’s Players

Living Together – St Jude’s Players

The problem with St Jude’s Players production of Alan Ayckbourn’s comedy “Living Together” is that it is an enormously ambitious hill to climb for amateurs. This is principally because the play comes midway through a trilogy Ayckbourn wrote, called “The Norman Conquests”.

You really need to know what happened in the first play to fully enjoy it.

In his native Scarborough Ayckbourn hired local actors, but by the time any production reached London’s West End, virtually guaranteeing success, the ‘big names’ had been brought in. Thus, “The Norman Conquests” featured Tom Courtenay, Penelope Keith and Tom Conti.

I ‘took to’ Ayckbourn’s work while studying for a playwriting diploma at Sussex University, having been introduced to him by my tutor. Thus, I interviewed him for ABC Radio, sat in on a rehearsal of his, and spent some time getting to know him.

Posters would go up advertising his annual play at Scarbrough, and he hadn’t even written it! That happened the weekend before rehearsals began, with his stereo on full volume!

“Living Together” certainly isn’t a bellyful of laughs. In fact, I counted audience guffaws on the fingers of one hand. There’s an air of gloom about it.

However, the six strong cast rose above the night in admirable style, and congratulations to them all, amid an impressive Don Oakley sitting room set, and his capable stage management.

Norman, played by Simon Lancione, is definitely a man ‘on the loose’ capable of getting up to anything with any woman who comes near him. Thus, Rose Harvey, Carla Hardie and Rebecca Butler’s characters find themselves caught up in romantic situations that slowly evolve, especially after Norman collapses asleep on the floor after downing a whole bottle of the red stuff!

Adrian Heness and Larry Waller’s characters somehow get caught up in all the confusion and sub-plotting in this smoothly directed production by Les Zetlein.

A better Ayckbourn work could have been chosen, but although you may not laugh out loud very much, it’s still worth catching this week at St Jude’s Hall, Brighton.

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