Theatre Review: RELATIVELY SPEAKING – The Lowry, Salford

Robert Powell as Philip and Liza Goddard as Shelia in RELATIVELY SPEAKING

Robert Powell as Philip and Liza Goddard as Shelia in RELATIVELY SPEAKING. Photo Credit: Nobby Clark

Smart, well-crafted and incredibly funny, RELATIVELY SPEAKING is a laugh-out-loud comedy full of misunderstandings and mistaken identity

When Alan Ayckbourn’s celebrated comedy RELATIVELY SPEAKING (originally titled MEET MY FATHER) first opened at the Duke of York’s Theatre in 1967, the critics hailed the arrival of a great new comic talent. Almost 50 years later, the show still continues to entertain audiences with a new revival directed by Robin Herford currently on tour in the UK.

RELATIVELY SPEAKING tells the story of Greg (Antony Eden), a besotted, naïve businessman who decides to propose to his girlfriend of just a month Ginny (Lindsey Campbell). When she tells him that she’s going to visit her parents, he decides to secretly follow her to break the good news to her folks and ask for her father’s permission. The problem is Ginny is not visiting her parents, she’s visiting the cosy detached home of her older lover Philip (Robert Powell) and his house proud wife Sheila (Sarah Simpkins), whereon a series of misunderstandings ensue and their entangled love lives begin to unravel.

Smart, well-crafted and incredibly funny, RELATIVELY SPEAKING is a laugh-out-loud comedy full of misunderstandings and mistaken identity. Stylishly staged and sharply performed, this polished and entertaining production makes the most of Ayckbourn’s witty and intricate plot, as well as the talents of small cast who deliver every punchline with exquisite timing and a warm charm.

Antony Eden plays the well-mannered, charming and slightly clueless Greg, providing a youthful energy and goofiness to the role, which is suitably offset by the likeable performance by Lindsey Campbell as Ginny, the girl with a bed full of secrets.

Robert Powell as Philip and Lindsay Campbell as Ginny in RELATIVELY SPEAKING.

Robert Powell as Philip and Lindsay Campbell as Ginny in RELATIVELY SPEAKING. Photo: Nobby Clark

Robert Powell stars as Philip, perfectly encapsulating the middle-aged man trapped in suburban hell. Powell’s slick and sharp-witted delivery makes the most of Ayckbourn’s witty script and his comic interaction with Eden makes for great comic entertainment.

A special mention also must go to Sarah Simpkins who stood in for Liza Goddard at the last minute, delivering a captivating portrayal of the dutiful housewife as Sheila.

While, for the most part, RELATIVELY SPEAKING is a well-executed production, there are certain aspects of the production that fall flat. The slow start in which Ginny gets ready for her visit to her parents makes for a slow and frustrating opener and the short intervals between the acts interrupts the flow of the play.

Some of the quick fire dialogue and the jokes also feel a little dated, suiting the original 1967 audience more than a modern day one. RELATIVELY SPEAKING was a bold play when it was written but it no longer holds any shocks in its portrayal of sexual relationships, although the underlying issues about trust, honesty and commitment are still as relevant today.

That said, the perceptive script, believable characterisations and impressive cast performance more than make up for this. Peter McKintosh’s evocative production design also stands out as a highlight of the show, particularly Philip and Shelia’s impressive two story country home and garden.

RELATIVELY SPEAKING may have been Alan Ayckbourn’s first  West End production but its delightful tangle of deceit and misunderstanding make it one of his best. Overall, a charming and highly entertaining production that will leave you smiling.

(4 / 5)

RELATIVELY SPEAKING runs at The Lowry until 22 October

About Donna

Donna is the Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she is a digital marketing whizz, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage, The Public Reviews and ScreenRelish. Loves Shakespeare, prosecco and Formula 1