Duchess Theatre, London WC2
Opened 7 September, 2002

*** Uneasy beginning to Ayckbourn's latest non-trilogy trilogy

This is the darkest and most unsettling of the (mere) score or so of Ayckbourn plays I have seen, and not, I fear, in any intended sense.

Alan Ayckbourn claims that there are no thematic links to these three plays: he just wanted to write a season of work for the same seven actors, to be played on the same set at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough (where they premièred last year). Of course, there are strands in common, most noticeably encounters with the law and the awkward ramifications of assuming various kinds of roles.

Here, Lynette and 16-year-old daughter Sorrel face penury after the collapse of both Lynette's marriage and her dot-com venture. Sorrel decides to contribute to the family finances by launching herself clandestinely on the Internet as prostitute "randy Mandy" and enlisting her mousey best friend Kelly as her "maid"; the first client, a lonely widower, is enough to put her off the idea, but the girls then find they have a post-coital corpse on their hands.

The second act has an appealing grimness, but through the first the sense is that the laughs are driven not by suspension of disbelief but its persistence, for if we were to treat these sordid events as plausible we could not bear them. Very much at odds with Ayckbourn's usual mode, and I fear it's an unhappy accident.

Written for divento.com

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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