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

full cast
Love is all relative it seems for Christoper Waters as Phillip, Hanna Robbins as Ginny, Gabriel Campbell as Greg and Kerry Jones as Sheila
Pictures: Pretty Little Photography

Relatively Speaking

Grange Playhouse


Lies. We all tell ‘em, and anyone who says they don’t . . . well that’s a lie.

There are the saving feelings lies, such as “Oh, how lovely, just what I have always wanted” when given a present you immediately earmarked as a donation to the next school fair tombola, or the more dangerous replies to questions of the “does my bum look big in this?” nature, where honesty is the last thing the questioner seeks.

Then there are the lies to explain away something you don’t want to actually explain, which can mean a lie to explain the first lie, and then another to explain the explanation of the explanation . . . I won’t lie, it can all get a little confusing, relatively speaking, in this Ayckbourn play.

We open with Greg in bed, disturbed by a mystery phone call with the caller hanging up. Why Greg is sleeping in what appears to be an oversized nappy is never fully explained beyond an excuse to bring in a Sabu the Elephant Boy line. But we’ll let that pass.

ginny and Greg 

Ginny and Greg visiting The Willows with different agendas

He is the latest boyfriend of Ginny, who is, should we say, less inexperienced in matters of the heart, and other bits, than the novice Greg.

But even Greg has his suspicions about his new love, and that perhaps all is not as hunky dory as he thought, like why does she have more bouquets than a florist on Valentine's day, all supposedly coming from an end of day clear-out from a little old flower seller on the corner, someone Greg appears to have never seen, and why is she up to her neck in boxes of chocolates. Those, he is told, came from a friend who works in a chocolate factory who is on a diet . . . really?

Then there were the hung-up phone calls, a mysterious address she claimed, unconvincingly, was where her parents lived, and, the pair of men’s slippers under the bed . . . put two and two together and you end up, well, in bed, so to speak.

Ginny is off to visit her parents and doesn’t want Greg to meet them yet, really doesn’t want it. Besotted Greg wants to meet them and take their daughter’s hand, and the rest of course, in marriage after their whirlwind romance of all of a month.

So, now having the address, The Willows at a village in Bucks, he secretly decides to join her at her parents. This is what is known as an "uh oh" moment.

Phillip and Sheila are sort of dancing around their less than perfect marriage. Phillip is sure Sheila is having an affair, she thinks he is mad: he plays golf on Sundays, usually, but not today, while she goes to Church except for the third Sunday after Trinity and this is the third Sunday.

They are happily bickering away out of habit when in should walk Greg to meet his beloved’s parents. Except they are anything but, so there is scope for a bit of confusion here.

phillip and sheila 

Married bliss(ish)  . . .Christopher Waters as Phillip and Kerry Kones as Sheila

Then Ginny arrives and the bit of confusion becomes a lot with Phillip now sure his wife has a younger lover and is ready to confront her toyboy, Sheila discovers young, attractive Ginny was Phillip’s former supposedly grey-haired, “old, close to retirement” secretary, and unlike Greg, Sheila is quicker at maths in the putting two and two together department.

Meanwhile Greg is trying to get permission to marry somebody’s daughter while Ginny is there to end her subscription to the source of the flowers, chocolates and phone calls.

Follow all that? It is a glorious mélange of misunderstanding and confusion as relationships and strains are exposed with no one quite sure that whoever they are talking to  is who they think they are.

Gabriel Campbell’s Greg has a lovely air of cheeky innocence about him, naïve at times, trying to be grown up at others, always standing up for his true love Ginny even as the evidence against her piles higher and higher. The course of true love never runs smooth – but it’s usually a bit less bumpy than this.

Ginny, meanwhile, is delightfully played with a slightly worried air by Hannah Robbins. She is living a lie for all the right reasons. She has a secret problem left over from a chequered past that she is trying to solve to be with Greg. The truth would have solved it immediately, but that would have made it a very short play and we would never have got to meet her “parents”.

Christopher Waters is a splendid Phillip, sure of himself, with the ability to listen to Sheila without hearing a word, a much-underrated skill of husbands, he’s suspicious of Sheila but seems much less upset about possible adultery than he is pleased to have supposedly found somewhat sketchy evidence of an affair – a letter delivered on a Sunday and Shelia’s planned weekend away to stay with cousin Natalie.

greg and sheila 

Greg and Sheila and mum's the word . . . or perhaps it isn't . . .

Perhaps pot, and a rather fanciful idea of a kettle, might spring to mind here, particularly as Kerry Jones’ Sheila seems blissfully unaware of her extramarital infidelity amid Phillips allegations.

She seems much more concerned with breakfast, lunch, tea and housewifery things rather than adultery. She is friendly, welcoming, puts up with Phillip’s sometimes strange ways, and just gets on with life.

This was Ayckbourn’s first real success. After opening in Scarborough in 1965, it moved on to the West End two years later making a name for Richard Briers as Greg who played alongside Michael Hordern and Celia Johnson.

It showed Ayckbourn’s trademark ability to dissect relationships, build characters, characters who are flawed, and even here there is a hint of a dark side lurking beneath the laughs - and there are laughs, plenty of them and director David Stone has kept up a cracking pace with a cast who know the value of a telling pause and knowing look to enhance effect.

And there has to be a mention for the set, built by Rob Onions, Joe Young, Mr G and Sue Groves. We have Ginny’s drab poky, studenty flat with a tiny bed where intimacy is the only way two people can fit in,  under a Breakfast at Tiffany’s movie poster on the wall, then off we go to the splendid garden terrace of The Willows with its solid white walls topped by masses of realistic looking flowers in a real cottage garden effect. You could almost smell the blooms!

The result is a first-class production well-acted,  with believable characters, well presented and well received. Confusion reigns to 14-05-22.

Roger Clarke


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