Drowning On Dry Land

For over 35 years the ultra prolific Alan Ayckbourn ran the Stephen Joseph 
Theatre in Scarborough where nearly all of his 70+ plays were first put on.

Well over half came to London, but 2011 is seeing revivals of a handful of
his lesser known works which never made it this far south.

The newly established Print Room has just extended its run of his Snake in
the Grass, and Haunting Julia opens at the Riverside in May.  

Meanwhile his 
prescient 2004 satire on the cult of celebrity is given a competent revival 
by Guy Retallack with a space-defying design by Georgia Lowe which manages
 to incorporate a folly tower (which, symbolically, brings you back to
 exactly where you started if you try to climb to the top) in Linzi and
 Charlie Conrad’s garden.

Discontented Linzi used to be a TV presenter but gave it up to raise the
 kids when Charlie went mega.

He’s gained a legion of fans for, quite simply,
 not being able to do anything right.  

The more he messed up – as an athlete, 
on quiz shows, even opening a supermarket – the more famous he’s become.

he’s about to face tough interviewer Gale with her reputation for dishing 
the dirt, and (although he says he’s got nothing to hide) his manager (Les 
Dennis) is there to protect him.

As is often the case with this playwright, there’s a deep sadness beneath
 the comedy and although the characters are exaggerated, there’s always that 
uncomfortable element of truth which makes his plays so effective.

Mark Farrelly’s pompous, pin-striped lawyer uses every trick in the book to 
humiliate and discredit the woman who accuses Charlie of sexual assault
before jumping back into his helicopter, Helen Mortimer sports a curly blue
wig and clown outfit as his self-styled number one fan hired by Linzi to 
entertain a cohort of kids at their son’s birthday party, and slightly
 bewildered chap-next-door ordinariness emanates from Christopher Coghill’s
talentless Charlie in this enjoyable, though not vintage, Ayckbourn.


Jermyn Street Theatre,  Jermyn St, SW1Y 6ST
020 7287 2875
Tube:  Piccadilly Circus
Till March 19

– Louise Kingsley