Rotary Club of Wokingham
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Sonning Theatre, Alan Ayckbourn’s farce ‘How the Other Half Loves’ to include pre show dinner. Being organised by Terry Wilkinson.
CLUB TRIP TO SONNING MILL THEATRE 28-04-2012
The evening started well for me. On entering Sonning Mill Theatre car park we passed PP Alan Richards standing on the bridge looking as if he might jump in. No! Not that, but the next bit. His face, was contorted in contemplative mood a bit like someone wondering if they'd got an earwig in their sock, as he stood, hand on, the rail above the swirling waters. As we parked, Alan came over and I commented on his wistful appearance.
"Yes!" said Alan, "I was looking at the water and the trees. I love Yew!"
Taken slightly aback, I replied, "Well, thank you Alan. And I quite like you too!"
"No! No!" He boomed, "I love the Yew trees round the riverbank!", he continued as we mooched off together to join Wokingham Rotary members clamouring at the theatre bar.
We'd all come for a meal and joyous evening giggling at Alan Ayckbourn's comedy play, 'How The Other Half Loves'. Organised by PP Terry Wilkinson, quite a goodly crowd of rollicking Rotarians soon gathered along with other members of the public, all out for a good laugh.
A choice of one of three dinners was included in the ticket price of £43.50, and it proved good value for our Friday evening's entertainment. It got even better with a glass of wine, and we all began to feel ready for the fun of the theatre.
And Alan Ayckbourn's play and use of the English language did not disappoint. His dialogues are poetry in motion. With the play being set in 1972 there was barely a person in the club that could remember back that far. Even so, they all identified with the six characters involved. There was the bumbling boss with his middle aged wife living together in an upmarket mansion. She had just enjoyed a secret assignation with one of her husband's Lothario type employees. It turns out this young executive and his rather scatterbrained, "flower-power", wife had just had their first child and they lived in an untidy one up and two down maisonette. We never got to see where the last couple lived. The man, something of a geek, also an employee of the bumbling boss, had a wife who was painfully shy and insecure. This manifested itself as embarrassment and confusion, especially when meeting people or being entertained in their houses. The characters this couple play are totally innocent of intrigue but are beautifully portrayed as they unintentionally interfere with the sanity and stability of the lives of the other two couples.
Ayckbourn cleverly sets the action of the play in both mansion and maisonette at the same time. Scenery and props for both homesteads are dovetailed across the stage so the married couples, in their respective living rooms, are both visible to the audience but act in oblivion to one another. A telephone call made from one living room to the other gives the audience the fun of seeing and hearing both halves of the conversation as if in separate buildings. It's the perfect situation for dialogue between all six actors to be cleverly interrelated, misinterpreted and misunderstood. Ayckbourn does this to perfection and to wonderfully humorous effect.
A great high light of the drama takes place at a table set in the middle of the stage. The table is designed in the form of a cross. Across the stage it represents the boss's house whilst front to back it's the executives house. The couple whose house we never see are seated on swivel chairs where the two tables cross. Facing the audience they appear to be seated at the boss's table. By turning 90 degrees to face each other they appear to the audience to be eating at the executive's table. The dialogue constantly shifts between conversation at the boss's and then the executive's dining rooms. The resulting choreography of swivelling, eating different meals and having two different conversations all taking place one after the other is just hilarious.
The part of the bumbling boss, played brilliantly by John Arthur, is an absolute gem, and key to the mounting misconceptions seeded both in his own homestead when talking to his wife, and employees and their wives or when on the telephone. The mayhem he creates is a rare treat.
All in all it all made for a very happy evening out for Wokingham Rotary Club members. Everyone went home in an excellent frame of mind for the weekend, no doubt fully informed and ready not to put into practice all they had learned.
Thanks, Terry! A great idea.