Alan Ayckbourn is nothing if not versatile, and in Flat Spin he moves away from the domestic comedy for which he is most well-known to a comedy-thriller. The complicated plot is typical of his ingenuity. Unsuccessful actress Rosie Seymour is flat-sitting in a flat owned by a Joanna Rupelford and meets neighbour Sam Berryman. A romance quickly develops, but Sam is called away and Rosie is visited by two sinister strangers. When Sam returns, it is obvious that he knows them, and Rosie realises that she is far, far out of her depth.
The play revolves around Rosie, who is on stage for most of the time. Rosie Hodgkinson gives a reliable, assured performance and shows an impressive range. She has to be attractive and sexy, she has to be sad and touching when she hears she has not got a part she really wanted, she has to be vulnerable and frightened as the bewildering web of deceit unfolds around her and she has to be sparky and sassy when she decides that enough is enough and that she is going to turn her back on all the devious machinations. All of these Rosie takes in her stride in a first-rate performance.
As her would-be lover, Sam, Martyn French speaks Ayckbourn’s lines particularly well, giving them a natural rhythm and delivery. He has good comic timing and his discovery of the erogenous effect of gnocchi is well done. His boss, Maurice Whickett, is in the safe hands of Mark Andrews, who is genial but always with an underlying air of menace. Two years off retirement, Maurice is cynical and more than a little disillusioned, and Mark puts across this side of the character well. If there is a criticism, it is that he could convey rather more authority. The cast is made up by Louise Richards as the death-dealing Edna Stricken, Kerrie Goodenough as female thug Tracy Taylor and Tim Calvert as an ex-SAS bodyguard. The last of these is a notable comic performance, and one looks forward to seeing more of him on the De La Salle stage.
The theatre’s splayed set is made good use of by director Peter Nunan. In such a raked auditorium, the actors have to pay careful attention to their diction and for the most part they do so to good effect. In all, neither the play nor the production is going to set the world on fire, but it is competently performed and makes for a very enjoyable evening.
Flat Spin is on until 21 April at 7.30 each evening.