14 April 2016
A ripe pair
In the cast of the first non-London production of Harold Pinter’s second play The Birthday Party was a young Scarborough actor called Alan Ayckbourn. And, although Pinter’s career is completed while Ayckbourn’s continues, the two men remain linked as the English dramatists whose works from the 1960s and 1970s are most regularly produced. A lavish revival from each backlist coincidentally opened last week.
Dating from 1969, How the Other Half Loves was the ninth of the 80 plays Ayckbourn has so far written, but the first to feature the games with stage space and time that have become his trademark.
The first trick is a set that simultaneously represents the living rooms of a wealthy older couple, Frank and Fiona Foster, and a trendy young pair, Bob and Teresa Phillips.
Side by side at the front of the stage are landline telephones – a reason that the script must now be seen as a period piece – that are among several non-naturalistic challenges to the actors. When a Phillips or a Foster phones each other, the actors must converse as if streets apart rather than sharing the same square of air.
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