Company of Ten review: Relatively Speaking at the Abbey Theatre
- Credit: Anne Frizell
Madeleine Burton reviews the Company of Ten’s live stream production of Relatively Speaking at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans.
Could Alan Ayckbourn ever have imagined when he wrote Relatively Speaking in 1965 that there would come a time when theatres would be closed across the country?
It is also extremely unlikely that he envisaged any of his plays becoming live screenings to remote audiences instead.
But that is exactly what the Company of Ten has had to do with their production of Ayckbourn’s first successful West End play, which was due to begin its run on the day after the latest lockdown.
Admittedly it would have been performed either as a live stream or in front of a socially distanced audience at the Abbey Theatre.
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But the absence of any audience must have made it far harder for the actors and a headache for director Angela Stone.
So all credit to them for the way they rise to the challenge of presenting a play that, like all Ayckbourn offerings, thrives on an audience.
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Relatively Speaking is set in 1963 and revolves around a young cohabiting couple and an older husband and wife whose lives have become entangled.
It depends on misunderstandings, confusion and a degree of chaos. Yet despite the lack of an audience, it really feels that everyone has got into their stride by the second half.
That is no criticism of either actors or director because Ayckbourn plays invariably seem to start slowly before emerging as great entertainment.
Company of Ten stalwarts Susie Major and Russell Vincent are as delightful as you would expect in the roles of the older couple, Sheila and Philip.
She is all patience with her irascible husband while he channels his inner John Cleese for the role of the dastardly Philip.
By coincidence I saw an advert featuring the said Cleese on TV just after watching Relatively Speaking and Russell had him off to a T.
Relative newcomers Emma Barry as Ginny and Ben Cammack as Greg are just as effective in their roles – he all naivete and she very much more on the ball.
They bounce well off each other and match the older couple for comic timing.
Even though Relatively Speaking was written nearly 60 years ago, the Company of Ten production does not seem dated and focuses on themes such as love and fidelity which never change.
Performances continue at 7.30pm from Tuesday, November 10 to Saturday, November 14, and the Company of Ten deserves full support in these difficult times for tackling the pandemic situation so valiantly.
To book streaming tickets go to www.abbeytheatre.org.uk