One of writer Alan Ayckbourn’s darker comedies, the play is a complex study of loneliness. It has a touch of Mike Leigh about it.
Six characters interact within interweaving stories. Ayckbourn cleverly focuses on the relationships of two people at a time, allowing us to see clearly delineated personalities under Elaine Bullock’s astute direction.
Katie Watson plays Nichola, the fiancee of Nathan McNicholas’ Dan. It is clear their partnership is doomed to failure when we learn Nichola expects Dan to reform his work shy, barfly ways after marriage. Acceptance and understanding may have been a more effective strategy. Dan uses bartender Ambrose, Simon Warner, as an informal therapist.
Estate agents Stewart, played by Michael Bullock, and Charlotte, Jo Hadjioannou, are intriguing work colleagues. Charlotte is devoutly religious and her modern proselytising method of a bit of hymn and a lot more of her is certainly unique.
Edwina Gascoyne’s Imogen seeks a real life partner while her brother and housemate Stewart takes refuge in celluloid romance. Siblings share a lot of history and middle age is not the ideal time to discover unexpected idiosyncrasies in each other.
As always, the New Venture Players’ acting is top notch. They walk the tricky tightrope of humour mixed with liberal sprinklings of pathos and pull it off nicely.
Hadjioannou’s character, Charlotte, sums up the human condition with refreshing and disarming honesty. We all have heaven and hell in us.
Perhaps Ayckbourn’s dysfunctional sextet would be a bit happier if they concentrated on the heaven in themselves and others a bit more.