other half

How the Other Half Loves

Malvern Theatres


Alan Strachan’s revival of Ayckbourn’s classic for Bill Kenwright is a polished and entertaining production of a very clever piece of writing.

It takes the audience a few moments to recognise that we are confronted by two sets combined and intertwined – the wood-panelled grander residence of Frank and Fiona Foster and the more ‘modern’, functional ‘60s living room of Bob and Teresa Phillips.

The two settings are occupied by the actors simultaneously at times, so they move around each other within their own homes without being aware of the other couple who are occupying the same stage space.

The husbands in the play are working in the same company: Frank is the boss, the other two have departmental responsibilities. The couples therefore have reason to interact; infidelity and affairs between the couples ensue.

Although the 60s, when the action is set, was a time of considerable social revolution and change, there was still a limited incidence of divorce, and gender roles remained largely traditional. Husbands expected their wives to cook the dinner for them on their return from work etc.

The subject matter and the overlapping of stories result in an ensemble piece that has many elements of farce and the characters are strongly defined and ironies abound. One is reminded at times of Albee’s ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’!

The cast deliver this clever and witty piece of theatre with great skill and polish. Roberts Daws, as Frank Foster, is brilliant with powerful and extended vocal inflexions, his bonhomie, accent and mannerisms that remind one of the golfing commentator, Peter Alliss: not at all PC! He is very slow to recognise what is happening with his wife’s dalliances: she is far too subtle for him in that regard.

In contrast to the respectable middle class Fosters, we have the coarse and brash Phillips. Leon Ockenden plays the chauvinistic Bob who is clearly looking for multiple affairs, while Charlie Brooks gives a very strong performance as Terri Phillips.

Matthew Cottle as William Featherstone, and Sara Crowe as his wife Mary join the action a little later and bring fresh humour and impetus to the comedy. William is a humourless and technical man who seems very unaware of what is happening around him socially. His wife seems a repressed, immature and innocent individual who is beginning to try and emerge from her shell.

The set is very cleverly designed with its mingling of styles of décor and furniture for the two living rooms.

Alan Strachan has directed this play on previous occasions and knows the complications well. He has directed and managed this team very skillfully. The timing of lines and pauses, the slick physical comedy and effective contrasting of characters combine to provide a very strong production which makes light of marital infidelity, although at the end there is a measure of reconciliation and restoration of the natural order. Strong performances all round make for an entertaining evening. To 30-09-17.

Tim Crow


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