Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

woman i mind

Alan Wollaston, Alice Wright, Jamie Szikora-Warmington, Jane Lush, Jason Moseley, Keith Finch and Neville Cann

Woman in Mind

Swan Theatre Amateur Company, Worcester


Susan is . . . unhappily . . . married to Gerald, a vicar who has turned boring into an art form with a son, Rick, who has joined a cult - sorry – group, who preach not talking to parents.

Living with them is Gerald’s sister Muriel who dislikes Susan, is self-centred, obsessed with contacting her dead husband and is a legendary bad cook who could even boil water and ruin it.

Susan lives in a modest suburban house, presumably the vicarage, or does she? Perhaps she is really married to the very wealthy Andy on a rolling estate with lakes, tennis courts, swimming pool, rose garden . . . posh with a capital P.

Here she has a dashing brother Tony, a soon to be married daughter Lucy and drinks champagne at the drop of a haute coutured hat.

The confusion arises thanks to a garden rake. She stood on the end and due to Newton’s first law of dynamic stupidity, got whacked by the handle to be awarded a spell of unconsciousness,

Which brings in the local doc, Bill, who has a professional relationship with Susan, and less professional thoughts, along with a wife who seems to be remarkably healthy yet still in need of regular consultations with his partner in the practice.

Some might say she suffers from a severe case of terminal adultery, but that is for another play to diagnose.

We assume Gerald and her empty marriage is her life in the real world, it seems the most logical, the family less weird . . . just, Gerald, given the charisma of a house brick by Jason Moseley, is driven by his magnum opus, a 60 page pamphlet on the history of the parish. His feelings for Susan are there, perhaps, but long ago buried and these days their marriage is more house sharing, consumed rather than consumated, Separate beds, separate feelings, separate lives in the same routines, but as time goes on the two families start to drift into each other, creating a new, bizarre world as Susan finally descends into madness.

It is a fine performance from Jane Lush, full of frustration and emotion to give us a Susan trapped in a marriage that has lost its romance, its love, its purpose. Her fantasy husband, Andy, a full of charm Alan Wollaston, says the sweetest, romantic things – the sort of stuff found in the most sugary of Valentine’s cards. Over the top perhaps but a hint of what her marriage lacks, just as Alice Wright’s Lucy is a loving, caring, always there offspring, unlike the lost to a cult Rick, played by Jamie Szikora-Warmington, who returns, having left the . . .  group, but hardly to the bosom of his family. Back as a son, but still living in another world.


Fantasy brother Tony, a larger than life performance by Neville Cann, teases Susan, but in a affectionate way and is always ready to console and defend, as opposed to her real sister, or at least sister-in-law, Muriel, played with a cold, superior air by Liz Elson, always ready to criticise or condemn.

Then we have the outsider, Bill, played with an avuncular medical air by Keith Finch. Our reliable country doctor who has been harbouring lustful thoughts about Susan since seeing her at a school event some 11 years ago.

This Ayckbourn play from 1985 doesn’t actually go anywhere beyond the depths of Susan’s mind. It starts with Bill reassuring Susan as she comes around from her argument with the rake, sounding like an impression of Stanley Unwin, as he waits for the arrival of the ambulance.

It ends with Susan, with her own impression of Unwin, waiting for the ambulance. Whether the same ambulance, whether anything happened in between, whether any of it was real or whether it was all in Susan’s mind – that is up to you to decide.

You are having to rely on the word of someone who is clearly unreliable, building trust on shifting sands. It makes for a disconcerting evening, reality always being just out of reach and finally vanishing in the bizarre circus of a climax.

Ayckbourn, who was 80 last week, had changed Susan from a man in his original thoughts, partly as he believed an audience would be more sympathetic to a woman, and partly so no one could see it as autobiographical, although that thought still remains at least as far as the external influences on his own mind.

His mother suffered a breakdown in the 1950s. while his son Steven, had joined a community, cult, group, call it what you will in California.

It is not the easiest play to either produce or watch, with real and imagined all on stage at once, they may even be all imagined, all we know is that we are seeing the world through Susan’s eyes.

Director Moyna Clarke has done a fine job to keep the two worlds both separate and together in the studio setting to produce an interesting, and very different, Ayckbourn play. Well-acted it brings madness within touching distance in the intimate setting of the studio. To 20-04-19.

Roger Clarke


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