Firstly, I would like to comment on the welcome from the Front of House staff as we entered the Barn, it was wonderful to be warmly greeted with smiles and enthusiasm. What a treat I had instore, not having reviewed RMDS previously I had no idea what to expect.
How the Other Half Loves is formulaic early Ayckbourn, featuring three couples whose lives intertwine as the playwright focuses on the middle classes and their attitude to marriage.
Frank and Fiona Foster are the middle-aged couple who are comfortably off, but Fiona’s fling with Bob Phillips whose relationship with wife Teresa is stormy leads to deceit and subterfuge. When Fiona and Bob both cite William and Mary Featherstone as their alibi after they’ve had a late night together, confusion and misunderstandings lead to humorous outcomes.
Steven Reynolds and Caroline Windsor are delightful as the Fosters. He’s somewhat forgetful, slow on the uptake and slightly dippy yet he gains sympathy because he can’t grasp the truth of what’s happening around him. She’s dismissive yet shows vulnerability when it appears she’s been found out. Both were well suited to their parts and complemented each other with their humour.
Andrew Chappel and Joanna Bower are enjoyable as the constantly bickering Phillips’s. She’s the fiery young mum continually weary with looking after their baby almost single-handedly and she’s treated abominably by her husband. He’s selfish and chauvinistic with a hint of underlying violence as faithfulness is a word he doesn’t understand. Again, very well cast and fun, I felt sorry for poor Benjamin never entering the picture, but this was handled perfectly by Joanna
My favourites must be Paul Berry and Julie Lax who do a superb job with their portrayals of the difficult roles of the Featherstones. William is a geeky, strange yet bossy husband while Mary is prim, reserved, and lacking self-confidence. Julie Lax’s strength is her ability to switch instantly from her incoherent manner when she’s with the Fosters to being more open in her conversations with Teresa. They were hilarious without either of them having a hint of a smile.
Ayckbourn was lauded for the technical skill of How the Other Half Loves which features a clever scene in which two dinner parties held on successive nights take place simultaneously on stage. Here it’s superbly done, with the Featherstones turning round on chairs as they face different levels of discomfort with the two other couples.
The whole play was masterfully accomplished, with all the actors showing impeccable timing which extracts the maximum humour from the piece.
The Production Team did a great job with this and are to be congratulated on the smooth changes of set design, lighting, wardrobe and sound. Not having seen the play before, I found the ending a little odd and almost out of keeping with what’s gone before. However, it was a stellar production and I loved every minute.