QUENTIN LETTS: This show has its moments, but the main reason for seeing it is Miss Kendal

By Quentin Letts


RELATIVELY SPEAKING by Sir Alan Ayckbourn, Wyndham's Theatre

Rating: 3 Star Rating

Sassy: Felicity Kendal is a bundle of comic timing

Sassy: Felicity Kendal is a bundle of comic timing

Felicity Kendal as a fifty-something Buckinghamshire housewife who may be having an affair?

That may be a bit of a stretch these days. But since when has it been necessary for Ayckbourn farces to be entirely plausible?

‘TV’s Felicity’, as some newspapers persist in calling her, is enough of a stage star to rise above something as piffling as a decade or more between her own age and that of her character.

This production does not start to motor until she appears in the second scene.

We are in the 1960s, and the geography is stated by a curtain which has a map of London and its suburbs.

During a train journey (why the American train toots?) this map lights up the route being taken.

The sets, first of a London bedsit, then of a red-brick Bucks villa, are detailed almost to the point of a crazy dream.

Childless Sheila (Miss Kendal) is being cheated on by her husband, Philip (Jonathan Coy, perfect as a modern Home Counties groper but perhaps not quite 1960s enough).

Suddenly their neatly hedged lives – cop that unusually florid wisteria – is invaded by a strange young man. Greg (Max Bennett) thinks Philip and Sheila are the parents of his girlfriend Ginny (Kara Tointon).

He asks permission to marry her. All sorts of misunderstandings follow.

If Miss Kendal creaks a little, so does the play. We can probably overlook both matters because the central plot idea is so clever and because zingy-faced Miss Kendal is such a bundle of comic timing.

Her Sheila is a dotty innocent who slowly realises what is happening. The play is redeemed by the fact that she is not entirely a victim.

Alongside such a pro’, young Miss Tointon’s performance is a little flat, both in voice and ping-ping-ping face gestures.

Is this Ginny maybe a bit of a bore? Or is that simply the way fiancees were made to seem in the chauvinist 1960s? Philip casually assumes that Greg is her owner.

This show has its moments, but the main reason for seeing it is Miss Kendal.

She may not go on playing sassy 50-year-olds much longer.

The comments below have not been moderated.

Totally agree Felicity Kendall was excellent

Click to rate     Rating   12

Agree entirely.. i have seen Dench and Nirren lately ..Felicity is in their class..superb

Click to rate     Rating   12
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