by Alan Ayckbourn
A World Premiere Production by The Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough
Reviewed by Christine Charlesworth
On Monday 28th January I visited the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford to review ‘Surprises’ written and directed by Alan Ayckbourn. I visit the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre on a regular basis. There is a large car park nearby, a large drop-off area in front of the theatre and the staff are always very friendly and helpful. There is a good restaurant at the back of the theatre and a cafe area in the main foyer. The main bar is on the first floor at the top of the main staircase. The Circle bar is reached by a staircase just off this area and is lined with framed photographs of the stars who have ‘trodden the boards’ in this theatre.
‘Surprises’ is a play set in the future and covers the broad spectrum of longevity and relationships, together with time and universe travel. It is divided into three distinct acts with two intervals.
Act One suffered greatly from lack of pace, lack of projection and an unfortunate set. Richard Stacey as the driver of the time machine brought on a breath of fresh air to the otherwise over-long act.
Act Two was on a different level entirely. The set was good with a very inventive ‘door’ at the centre opening to show the actors on the ‘hologram’. The lighting for this was extremely good. Laura Doddington and Sarah Parks both showed good characterisation of middle-aged executive and a rushed-off-her-feet PA, but the play came truly alive with the arrival of Richard Stacey and his superb characterisation of an android.
Act Three begins in a futuristic bar fifty years on. Richard Stacey’s grasp of accents was good as the man in the bar and his depiction of an android, 50 years older, showed both humour and pathos. This act covered longevity, long-term marriage and emotions, but it all seemed to come right in the end.