Tag Archives: Elizabeth Boag

Most Welcome

HERO’S WELCOME

New Vic Theatre, Monday 19th October, 2015

 

Alan Ayckbourn’s latest (yes, he’s still churning them out!) is darker than most of his output but nonetheless as funny as ever. It tells the story of the return to his home town, after 17 years in the armed forces, of local lad Murray (Richard Stacey) acclaimed as a hero for his part in saving a children’s hospital from rebel forces. With him is his sweet, young wife Madrababacascabuna (Terenia Edwards) whose struggles to learn English lead to many an amusing moment.

Trouble is, no one seems happy to have Murray back. It emerges he left town under something of a cloud, having deserted Alice (Elizabeth Boag) at the altar, a woman he stole from former best mate Brad (Stephen Billington). Alice is now Mayor and wields power enough to scupper Murray’s plans to reopen his family’s old hotel.

Murray is the least exaggerated of the characters: Stacey gives him an earnest, likeable manner bringing to mind the skills of Christopher Eccleston, while Terenia Edwards, in her professional debut, sparkles as his wife (I can’t be bothered to type that name out again), growing in confidence in tandem with her vocabulary. Russell Dixon is Alice’s husband and mayoral consort Derek, a gossipy old woman of a man fixated on model railways – a stock Ayckbourn type. Ayckbourn rarely gives us absolute, complete and utter shits (I can think of Paul in Absent Friends) but here with Brad is a villain of unadulterated nastiness. Billington is dashing and dapper enough to offset Brad’s inner ugliness; we enjoy detesting him. Suffering Brad’s emotional and verbal abuse is long-suffering wife Kara – Emma Manton utterly excellent at showing us the pain behind the brave face in an outstanding performance.

Ayckbourn packs a lot in and although Michael Holt’s set is a little cluttered, the three locations-in-one work well to keep the action zipping along. There are underlying themes of the difficulties faced by soldiers who leave the army, and the treatment of immigrants as less-than-human (Brad sees Murray’s wife as fair game in a bet with Derek) but the emphasis is on the personal dramas unfolding, as events of the past come to the fore and the present situation becomes untenable.

It’s as bitter and delicious as dark chocolate, performed by a flawless ensemble and, while not a masterpiece, proves that Ayckbourn is still at the height of his powers, unmatched in his presentation of contemporary human interactions.

Richard Stacey and Terenia Edwards (Photo: Tony Bartholomew)

Richard Stacey and Terenia Edwards (Photo: Tony Bartholomew)

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Comings and Goings

ARRIVALS & DEPARTURES

New Vic Theatre, Newcastle under Lyme, Friday 11th October, 2013

Troubled soldier Ez is tasked with looking after Barry, a witness who will be able to identify a terror suspect when a train arrives.  As they wait, Barry’s loquaciousness (particularly about the weather) tests Ez’s patience to the limit but gradually they form a mutual respect and understanding.

Alan Ayckbourn’s latest play is more than a brief encounter on the railways.  The first act is intercut with flashbacks of Ez’s past.  The second is a repeat of the first act although this time the flashbacks reveal Barry’s personal history.  It’s a supremely effective device that maximises the impact of events when they reach both anticlimax and shocking denouement.

Elizabeth Boag is very strong as the cold and reserved Ez, who despite herself forms a kind of attachment to the wittering buffoon in her charge.  Kim Wall dazzles as Barry, who first appears as a numpty from the North (he sports a baseball cap rather than the stereotypical flat variety) but is revealed to be a lovely bloke.  Both are shown to be victims of unscrupulous people their paths have crossed.

Running the undercover operation is Quentin (a splendid Terence Booth) rehearsing his troops in scenes that show the soldiers’ amateurish dramatics in hilarious light.  There is powerful support from the likes of John Branwell, Richard Stacey and Sarah Parks, and I particularly liked James Powell as the young Barry, embarking on married life and taking over his father-in-law’s business.  Ben Porter again impresses with his versatility but really the entire ensemble merits praise for the seemingly effortless naturalism of their portrayals within a heightened and extraordinary situation.  Even the farcical elements are played for truth and this is why it works like a well-oiled machine.

Ayckbourn’s script balances riotous humour with amusing character study as well as giving us some dramatic and very poignant moments, while keeping the element of surprise up its sleeve.  It’s an entertaining, affecting piece, reminding us that we all have pasts of our own; we all go through life’s mill, but sometimes circumstances conspire to bring us together with a stranger and encounters, however brief or bizarre, can lead to a genuine connection.

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Elizabeth Boag and Kim Wall