7.45pm, Tue 19 to Sat 29 Nov, ADC Theatre
From exhausted mothers to dysfunctional married couples, drunken nights out to village fetes, high tension to slapstick comedy – Confusions surely lives up to its title!
I've learnt to be somewhat cautious of Alan Ayckbourne plays over the years. Not because the actual content is bland, but because of the skill required to ease out the subtle humour between the words – it’s all in the sideways glances and prolonged pauses. Yet, thankfully, this production did not disappoint! The cast had the audience in the palm of their hands. And very often, me in embarrassingly hysterical fits of laughter.
What really stood out for me was the brilliant caricatures and multi-rôling of the actors. It was a surprisingly large cast for 5 short sketches but every one of them was focused and kept a high energy level throughout. Occasionally, some of the comic timing was a little out of kilter with occasionally slightly-too-long silences and some throw-away lines, but on the whole the quality of acting was very high. In fact, what appeared to be a painfully slow and awkward scene to begin with, actually developed into a hilarious farce of human nature – earning a roar of laughter as soon as this tension was broken on the stage. The charm of this production was that many of the comic moments were unexpected, keeping the audience engaged.
Kyle Turakhia in particular gave a fantastic performance as Harry – gradually getting drunker and more hilarious as one sketch progressed, and then was barely identifiable when he reappeared in act two as a bumbling, middle-class vicar. I had to take a moment to remember why I recognised his face! Bethany Hutchinson also should be noted for her role as Mrs Pearce, mastering timing perfectly, especially in the ‘Gosfort’s Fete’ scene – the highlight of the whole show for me. Watch out for a few surprises in that sketch!
The set, costume and props were all very detailed which helped bring these short scenes to life. Real food and drink was used to great effect, the costumes reflected the ridiculous caricatures (from baggy pyjamas to a full on Boy Scout uniform) and the scene changes were, for the most part, reasonably smooth. I appreciated way the actors themselves carried tables and chairs off between scenes, synchronised and swift – apart from a couple of times when props and set were snagged by a too quickly dropped curtain! Although, this only prompted more giggles from the audience and merely added to the light-heartedness of the play.
Having said that, not all of the play was merely humourous. In the majority of the sketches, there was an underlying, very powerful message. At times, you really felt great sympathy for the characters desperately struggling in floundering relationships or appreciated their dilemmas in relation to real life. Particularly in Act 5, the last scene, which was a sudden change in tone from the farcical to the poignant, Sasha Brooks made the audience fall silent as she gave a very moving performance as a teenager in an abusive relationship.
Yet, all in all – funny, moving, well-produced and thought-provoking – definitely worth a watch!