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

Two halves of an entertaining whole

How The Other Half Loves

Sutton Arts Theatre


SUTTON Arts Theatre's new season kicked off in great style with a wonderfully funny staging of Sir Alan Ayckbourn's comedy How The Other Half Loves. 

The play first opened in 1969 and was revived by Ayckbourn to mark its 40th anniversary in 2009 with himself as director for the first time since its Scarborough premiere.

Although the play was written in the late 60s it translates very well to a 1990s setting with its timeless story of three couples, infidelity, crossed wires and farce.  

This is a jolly good romp with indiscretion, misunderstanding, fisticuffs, lies and black eyes and many twists.  All ends well with apologies, passionate reunions and reconciliations but there is a final twist. 

The set appears quite complicated but is quickly and easily understood; the single set represents two separate but very different rooms, The Fosters' posh home and the Phillips' shabby abode. Action takes place in both homes simultaneously with only the dining table crossing over into both households. 

Frank Foster (Len Schofield) is the undisputed star of the show, but then he does have the very best part and lines as the very posh, not too sharp and technologically- and mechanically - challenged, wronged husband of Fiona (Alison Daly) who has the sophistication of Hyacinth Bucket and the culinary skills of Delia (or should that be 60's kitchen goddess, Fanny Craddock?).
Ian Cornock plays Bob Phillips, the philanderer husband who is a rather unpleasant character with a blatant disregard for the feelings of his slovenly, uninteresting and uninterested wife Terri (Louise Farmer) who dreams of being a lady of letters and, one imagines, is suffering with post-baby blues. 

The infant doesn't actually make an appearance but definitely makes an impression along the way; prune juice in the kitchen, air freshener in the soup and something unidentified on Fiona's hall carpet.


Some of the best comedy moments are provided by Mark Nattrass as William Featherstone in his drunken rage and his comedic exits.  Suzy Donnelly gives a very plausible performance as his painfully shy and retiring wife. Particular credit has to be given to Nattrass and Donnelly for their impeccable timing in the extremely well-choreographed, famous dinner table scene complete with swivel chairs. 

A veritable feast is provided by the competent Fiona in this scene as real food is consumed but I'm sure that there's a limit to how many avocado salads and Italian meatballs (beefburgers actually) the cast will be able to manage before the 10th. Hopefully, they'll see a menu change along the way. 

Sadly Terri's culinary efforts are thwarted by the ever-absent babe - Chicken noodle soup au air freshener - but never mind there is always the wine . . . which is a guaranteed recipe for disaster. 

The play is directed by Ian Cornock and Joanne Ellis is assistant director.   I suspect though that Ellis may have gone above and beyond bearing in mind that Cornock was playing one of the lead characters as well.  The team had to overcome casting problems and final casting was made only three weeks ago.   

There were a few missed lines along the way but Barbara Christopher did a great job as prompt in what was an enjoyable show holding out the promise of an entertaining new season.  To 10-09-11

Lynda Ford 

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