Lymington Players The Malt Theatre, Lymington Community Centre, Lymington
Anne Waggott 7 May 2023
Confusions is a set of five one-act interconnecting plays written in the 1970s by Alan Ayckbourn, each a standalone narrative about different aspects of relationships, but with a thread running through the individual storylines that ties one to the other, much like the links between the individual protagonists involved.
Lymington Players have decided to perform four of these plays for their May production and I was honoured to watch their dress rehearsal.
In The Mother Figure, Victoria Sandford (Lucy) was the epitome of a mother who is essentially raising her three young children single-handedly, capturing every nuance of Ayckbourn’s pithy script with her tone of voice, facial expressions and mannerisms. “I haven’t been anywhere for weeks” was accompanied by a haunted look that every exhausted parent (or someone who works in childcare!) will instantly identify with.
Her interaction with the neighbours, Rosemary (Sara Yarwood) and Terry (Colin Keir), was superb, as Lucy took on the role of ‘mother’ while Rosemary and Terry reverted to childlike demeanours in response.
Lucy’s absent husband, Harry (Richard Gosnold), links The Mother Figure with Drinking Companion, where sleazy Harry – a travelling salesman – is enjoying a drink or two with Paula, a perfume saleswoman he tries to seduce in the hotel bar. Sandi Cox was excellent as the ditsy, flirtatious yet morally indignant lady, with good support from Deborah Jetten as her more level-headed friend, Bernice. The relationship between the two was authentic and endearing, while Harry’s overpowering seduction techniques proved to be rather uncomfortable to watch. Ayckbourn’s plays are firmly set in the 1970s, but the pressures that women today may feel from unwelcomed and uninvited advances remains as relevant now as then, and a serious theme to the comedy on show. Ayckbourn is still a playwright for all times – although there have been some shifts in attitudes, there haven’t been as many over the last half century as you might expect!
Between Mouthfuls, presumably set in the restaurant of the same hotel, has a hardworking waitress (Clare Collins) desperately trying to provide the best customer service she can to two couples whose relationships are unravelling before her eyes. Clare Collins has a wonderful aptitude for comedy, with brilliant comic timing and delivery, and a visual performance as the embarrassed waitress that was hilarious! The way the relationships were set up for the audience, then fall apart for the characters, was performed with skill and flair by the quartet of Adam Ogilvie and Sara Yarwood (Mr & Mrs Pearce), and Jessica Anderson and Ian Prescott (Polly and Martin).
Gosforth’s Fete is the garden party that descends into total farce and chaos as a secret affair is revealed to all and sundry, with the link from the previous acts being Mrs Pearce, who has left the restaurant to open the fete. What is very obvious here is the depth of talent amongst the Lymington Players. All actors in this final play performed in at least one of the previous pieces, so their versatility of characterisation, voices and accents, and comic skill was evident for all to see, especially Sara Yarwood (Mrs Pearce is very, very different to Rosemary!) and Sandi Cox as Millie, with the five actors bouncing off each other in a highly enjoyable way.
There is an enormous amount to enjoy in this production, with the underlying relationship themes of desire, loneliness and need for companionship vividly brought to life through every facial expression, gesture and mannerism. For the most part, the comic timing, under the expert direction of Pauline Combes and her assistant, Amanda Harber, was spot on, sharp and slick, with a good quick pace that is needed to make farce work to its best. Although at times some of the actors were less than secure with their dialogue, so that the pace and volume dropped, I’m confident these will swiftly be resolved and smoothed out during the week, particularly with the support of an appreciative audience to enhance the live experience.
Ayckbourn’s plays are prop-heavy, and Confusions is no exception. Victoria Sandford and Clare Collins in particular managed a multitude of props with aplomb – much harder than it looks! Set dressing, props, costumes, lighting, sound effects and appropriate scene change music, were all carefully and faithfully designed and executed, combining to create an aesthetically pleasing production. The only Confusions here are in the script! What the show needs now is an audience – there are so many genuinely hilarious moments throughout to relish. So, get your tickets, sit back, enjoy and let the laughter flow!
Confusions runs until Saturday 13 May, 7.30pm each evening.