Alan Ayckbourn’s play How The Other Half Loves is the perfect comedy entertainment to brighten up a Winter’s evening. Three couples’ lives and marriages entwine. It’s the morning after the night before and two have been playing away from home. There’s no mystery about who they are from the start of the play develops around their secret coming out.
One stage boasts two homes. Half designed in the style of the affluent home of the boss Frank Foster ( Philip Bretherton) and his wife Fiona (Sherry Baines). The other Half belonging to Franks employee Bob Phillips (Haydn Oakley) and wife Teresa ( Joanna Van Kampen) the family life mess is evident and the furniture is functional.
Alternative decorated walls depicted whose house you are in during the play. The ceiling heights, a higher standard of decor, and soft furnishings in the Foster household including the sofa coverings split. The details and organisation of a complex set such as this on are superb and made it extremely easy to follow where you were at all times.
The dinner party scenes split between Thursday and Friday night at the different houses are timed perfectly. Both of the couples invite William and Mary Featherstone (Sam Alexander and Rebecca Cooper) around for an evening of dinner and getting to know one another.
The Featherstone’s sit on swivel chairs to switch quickly between both homes to engage with their hosts. Conversations and revelations are perfectly timed letting the audience follow the fast-paced storyline without losing any of the dynamics built up between the three couples. The cast of six bring the classic Ayckbourn play to life with precision and confidence.
Philip Bretherton’s portrayal of the slightly forgetful and erratic boss Frank Foster catches you unaware at times, and you burst out laughing. Don’t be fooled, though. This man doesn’t miss anything and eventually pieces everything together.
Director Gareth Machin has created an incredibly funny, finely tuned production of the Ayckbourn play to the stage. With so many intertwined complex scenes where both families are simultaneously in their homes on the stage together, nothing overlaps. I left completely in awe of Machin’s direction skills and considering where you start when putting a complex performance on stage such as this.
For more information on this play and future productions at The Salisbury Playhouse, please use the links below.
Playing from the 9th February to 4th March 2023.
Photo credit The Other Richard.