Relatively Speaking, by Alan Ayckbourn

Now at the International Theatre

On The Town | Veronica Buckley | June 2012

Alan Burgon and Joanna Laverty in Relatively Speaking at Vienna's International Theatre (Photo: International Theatre)

Relatively Speaking, by "the British Neil Simon", is a slow motion farce that might have been subtitled "Who are you sleeping with, and exactly who are you anyway?"

The play was first produced in 1967, when Ayckbourn was still in his twenties, and although it was his first big hit, it reveals his inexperience in writing for the theatre. It is essentially a series of dialogue scenes between various pairs of characters, and it would work quite as well as a radio play as it does on the stage.

Alan Burgon carries the show as the young lover Greg. He is much more appealing after the first act, when Ayckbourn allows his bouyant charm to take over from a petulant jealousy – not unwarranted, as it turns out. His relaxed chat with the sweet-natured Sheila (Laura Mitchell), his supposed mother-in-law-to-be, is a delight: the summer Sunday shines through every exchange.

But the same can’t be said for Greg’s scenes with Ginny (Joanna Laverty). Though the two say they’re desperate to marry, there’s no chemistry between them, and it’s hard to understand why Ginny, with (at least) one wealthy lover in the wings, would want to rush into marriage after only a month of what appears to be a passion-free affair.

Don Fenner directs with a suitably light hand, retaining contemporary references without dating the production

too obviously. So we have hints of Italian lira and Greg going to a party in a suit, but it’s not intrusive, and the audience chuckled throughout.

Through 30 June

Thu.-Sat., 19:30

International Theatre Vienna

9., Porzellangasse 8

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