Attention, swivel-eyed Tories, this one could be for you. Alan Ayckbourn’s ’60s tale of a swinging girly living in sin in bedsitland might have made your ancestors choke on their marmalade, but today it’s more likely to make you chortle with pleasure.
The story starts with young Ginny deciding to end her affair with an older man so she can marry her younger squeeze. But the younger man thinks she’s visiting her parents and goes along in secret to ask Dad for her hand in marriage. Confusion ensues in a sitcom of mistaken identity sustained by the English capacity for endless embarrassment, eagerness to keep up appearances and beat about the bush.
In general, though, Ayckbourn’s play has become an innocuous old museum piece. Never mind the Tories, it would take a swivel-eyed Puritan to get worked up about this storyline today and there are long periods when the situation feels entirely artificial. All the same, it’s a well-fashioned production from Lindsay Posner – a director who’s become a master of middle-of-the-road West End shoo ins. And suburban theatregoers will surely be covetous of the show’s red-brick country home set, dripping in wisteria and framed by a box hedge.
They will also be excited by Kara Tointon playing the leading girly in an itsy-bitsy mini-skirt. Acting like she’s got little to lose, she’s too hard and abrasive to really care for, but, as her young lover Greg, Max Bennett has all the blinking innocence of the young Richard Briers who first played the role in 1967. Jonathan Coy’s older lover Philip, meanwhile, is Tory in tooth and graph-paper shirt, with an explosive, UKIP-style, temper.
The main delight is Felicity Kendal, who plays Philip’s wife Sheila as the perfect suburban mum: away with the fairies, but with a roving eye and a taste for gossip. All very safe, but it should keep the net curtains twitching.
By Patrick Marmion