Before Tarantino’s time shifting Pulp Fiction, there was Alan Ayckbourn’s restaurant drama but with thankfully less violence.
The play is set at Laura Stratton’s birthday party at Essa da Calvi. Laura and husband Gerry’s dialogue stays there and then. Son Glynn and his wife Stephanie, however, resume their conversation in various future lunchtimes at the same Italian eatery whilst younger son Adam and girlfriend reveal how they met in several evening flashbacks chez Ernesto and company.
The first half is a bit plodding while we get to know the characters but Ayckbourn’s dry humour is more evident after the interval as skeletons come out of the closet, we see an amusing start to a romance and conversely the sad protracted meltdown of another.
Husband and wife, John and Margaret Stone play stage couple Gerry and Stratton. It’s a dark, presentation from Ayckbourn with intimations of domestic violence and flippant admissions of marital infidelity making uncomfortable viewing.
A second real life double act, Paul and Catherine North as Glyn and Stephanie have similarly uncheery meetings. Indeed Laura observes they have come out of the dark tunnel of marriage, sadder but wiser.
Light relief comes in the shape of Adam and Maureen’s sweet relationship. Chrissy Almond plays the quirky, tall tale telling hairdresser and is the pick of the bunch in Mildand Players’ latest offering. Sam Guest as Adam shares good chemistry with her as a computer date goes a bit pear shaped.
Phil Ashton amuses with five wigs, waiter’s costumes and personalities.