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Couple’s banter escalates into blazing row on stage

The Argument at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. [Picture: Nick Clarke]

The Argument at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. [Picture: Nick Clarke]

Abbey Theatre

How does a minor disagreement after a perfectly amiable evening out with your other half finish with a blazing row?

The Argument at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. [Picture: Nick Clarke]The Argument at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans. [Picture: Nick Clarke]

This is the scenario for The Argument by William Boyd, which opens at The Abbey Theatre in St Albans from this Friday.

Pip and Meredith differ in their views on a film they have just seen.

The next 75 minutes is a development of that argument from not only their perspectives, but those of their friends and her parents, washed down with copious amounts of alcohol.

In 10 scenes, playwright Boyd explores what it is like to take opposing viewpoints with those we love, and how far we will go when we think we are in the right.

Angharad Cunningham, who plays Meredith, describes the banter between herself and Pip starting out as great fun, with a little bite to it.

“They are equally matched, and clearly enjoy a good argument,” she said.

“The playful to-and-fro is a regular part of their relationship. Meredith likes a good intellectual disagreement. I find this side of her appealing.”

So what goes wrong? Well, like all rows that get out of hand, people say things they shouldn’t and truths emerge that were better kept secret.

In this case, Pip’s revelation tips the scales.

Meredith is outwardly a strong woman who can take on the world, but according to Angharad, “there is a level of insecurity and vulnerability within her which come to light”.

She added: “The challenge with Meredith is that she is a person who likes to be in control and hates anyone seeing her vulnerable side.

“I recognise that in myself and can sympathise with her.”

Like Angharad, Stu Hurford, who plays Pip, recognises the game-playing nature of their relationship.

“It’s a passionate marriage based predominately on mutual manipulation and point-scoring, and in that sense they are well-matched.

“However, Meredith belittles his character and intellect. Pip didn’t have the best start in life and has a bit of a chip on his shoulder.

“He is a hard grafter who aspires to better himself, and cares a little too much about what others think of him.

“His temper easily boils over but subsides just as quickly.”

The situation is not helped by their friends Jane and Tony, or by Meredith’s parents, Chloe and Frank, whose intervention generally makes things worse rather than better.

Jenny Kilcast, who plays Meredith’s best friend Jane, explains that she should be the perfect person to advise Meredith.

Jenny said: “Jane has been through a similar situation, but her honest opinion may not be what Meredith wants to hear.

“She may also have her own reasons for not encouraging a reconciliation.”

Similarly, Pip’s friend, Tony, played by Ben Kenyon, may have the best of intentions, but his strong opinions may be counter-productive.

“Under the assumption that he is always right, he pushes Pip to make decisions whether they are in Pip’s best interests or not.”

Meanwhile, the bickering Chloe and Frank inflame the situation with their well-meaning interference, not allowing for the fact that Meredith may have secrets of her own.

You may come away feeling that The Argument is a prime example of the adage that we can never know what goes on in other people’s marriages.

Performances take place in the Studio from Friday, April 20 to Saturday, April 21 at 8pm.

You can also see it on Sunday, April 22 at 2.30pm, and then from Tuesday, April 24 to Saturday, April 28 at 8pm.

• To book tickets go to www.abbeytheatre.org.uk or call the box office on 01727 857861.

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