The Burbage Players returned to their favourite playwright, Alan Ayckbourn, for their Autumn production at the Michael Croft Theatre, Alleyn’s School. A strong cast, with a simple but attractive single set of the garden of a Victorian vicarage set in the 1970’s was admirably directed by Kathy Blackeby and Stefan Nowak.
Tom (Terry Brownbill), the mild-mannered and shy vet, makes constant visits to the garden, ostensibly in pursuit of his cat but perhaps unconsciously in pursuit of his neighbour Annie (Gill Daly), who has remained at home to care for her invalid mother. Her brother Reg (Carl Gilbey-McKenzie) and sister Ruth (Angela Horne) make occasional visits with their spouses to the family home to see the ageing matriarch.
The audience does not see Mother, instead it is allowed to view the private lives and often eccentric behaviour of her offspring and their partners. Certainly the most eccentric is Norman, brilliantly played by Humphrey Waterhouse, the louche husband and absolute opposite of his wife, the fantastically organised Ruth. Norman is unable to resist making passes at any woman and this includes his sisters-in-law, the wistful Annie who pines in vain, for the hopeless Tom, and the haughty Sarah (Carole Coyne). Yet Norman is successful with both. Annie clearly deciding that by her age, a bird in the hand is better than one in the bushes looking for a cat, agrees to an illicit weekend away with him. When her affection for Tom stops her going, she is replaced in the attention of Norman by the rapidly melting persona of Sarah.
Ruth, however knows her husband and how far he can be allowed to stray and when the characters depart for their respective homes with the same partners they arrived with, the audience thinks the play is over. It is not. A loud car crash is heard and back they all troop for hilarious recriminations and happy conclusion for the two gormless lovers, Tom and Annie.