Adelaide Theatre Guide Review
"How The Other Half Loves" was written in the 1970s and as such the roles of men and women which were the norm in that era is now perceived as unacceptable. Alan Ayckbourn is the master of comedy and despite the 'political incorrectness' if judged by today's standards, the comic element, when directed and performed well, is still very entertaining. Galleon continue their reputation of excellence with this offering.
The play is a comedy of manners, made interesting by its structure. The action overlaps time and space, taking place in two houses in the same space. This was somewhat confusing at times with a sequence of events where nobody quite knows who is doing what to whom! However, the comedic timing and characterisation by the whole cast has been well choreographed by director, Warren McKenzie. Brittany Daw has produced an excellent set which is integral to the working of the play.
Three couples are embroiled in a situation which explores marital deviancy, secrecy and deceit. Andrew Clark delivers perhaps one of his best performances as Frank Foster, demonstrating excellent comic timing. Joanne St Clair's character of Frank's wife, Fiona, is suitably 'proper' when required but hiding a somewhat 'loopy' character.
Brittany Daw plays the subdued but 'sweet' Mary Featherstone, married to William, played by Aled Proeve in his first role for Galleon. Andy Steuart and Leanne Robinson play Bob and Teresa Phillips, providing the most overt 'conflict' in their relationship.
As an audience we need to accept that the characters are one-dimensional stereotypes of the 70s and sit back and just enjoy the absurdity of the comedy.
Galleon continue their reputation of excellence with this offering.
Reviewed by Janice Bailey
Broadway World Review
Galleon Theatre Group celebrated its 50th Anniversary in August this year which, for an Adelaide amateur theatre company, is quite an achievement. Galleon is known for presenting good quality productions and Alan Ayckbourn's, How The Other Half Loves, is no exception. The story is set in two separate homes in the 1960's and revolves around the infidelities of a married man with his boss's wife. To try to keep the affair under wraps, the two players weave another couple into their sordid story and the implications are both unexpected and humorous.
The plot is played out by three married couples. There is the smart and stylish Frank and Fiona Foster, played by the talented Andrew Clark and the more than adept Joanne St Clair. Theirs is a marriage that has become far too comfortable and their life gets more than interrupted by the drama that unfolds. Next, we have Bob and Teresa Phillips, played well by Andy Steuart and Leanne Robinson. These two spar off each other in a somewhat toxic way, and Robinson has a shriek to rival that of a fishwife, which she inflicts on her husband at every opportunity. Our last couple is the Featherstones, played by Aled Proeve and Brittany Daw, who was also the set designer. This couple is extremely reserved and nerdy and the comic relief I was hoping for fell a little short, but they did, however, manage to characterise the awkwardness of both their personas and marriage affably.
These six performers, under the direction of Warren McKenzie, have managed to pull together a performance that is both delightful and entertaining. As a cast, they play well off each other and there is some insightful direction to go with the clever script, a highlight of which is the dinner party scene. This was very well done, with both Proeve and Daw pivoting between not only two houses and dinner parties, but on different nights as well. This was all seamlessly done and a credit to all and worked so well in part due to Daw's set design.
The setting was reminiscent of a 1960's home, with the action taking place in the kitchen, lounge and dining area. The attention to detail was incredible, with the walls adorned with 60's art and every item a replica of the era. The lounge seat was separated via colour to represent the two different homes with the actors moving seamlessly in and around the furniture and room to bring the story to life.
The costumes had been well-researched and suited the era to perfection. Fashion for women in the 60's was a very colourful affair and the female actors, complete with appropriate makeup and coifed hair, looked every bit the part.
This is a very well-rehearsed production that could do with picking up the pace a bit, but, hopefully, this will happen as the season continues.
Reviewed by Fiona Talbot-Leigh, Thursday 18th October 2018.
Stage Whispers Review
Ayckbourn is a self-professed social commentator of his time. His plays reflect that he is a keen observer of people. Two of his favourite themes, marriage and social class, form the framework of How the Other Half Loves. Written in 1969, this play, in fact, is known to have secured his success as a playwright. Ayckbourn himself commented, "I like to deal in the basics - marriage; it's so tragic and comic, you know - the things people can do to each other. Or the way the rich and the poor do things."
Galleon Theatre Group's production of the play is directed by Warren McKenzie and is a farce about three couples from distinctly different classes. It follows the consequences of an adulterous, not entirely believable affair between Fiona Foster, played by Joanne St Clair and Bob Phillips, portrayed as a rough, east end-style Londoner by Andy Steuart. Fiona is the philandering wife of Phillips' boss Frank and in Fiona and Bob's attempt to cover their tracks, a third, younger couple, the Featherstones, are unwittingly roped in as cover for the pair's duplicity.
The older couple, Frank and Fiona Foster, are the holders of both the wealth and the power. Andrew Clark as Frank has arguably found his metier in farce. Clark's character is reminiscent of a young John Cleese, absent-minded, dithering and gullible. His cut glass accent is flawless, his timing is impeccable and he is entirely believable as a duped upper class husband. His experience as an actor shows and he steals every scene he is in.
St Clair is a skilled and seasoned performer. Her performance is confident and nuanced; her accent is clipped and reflective of her social position and her timing, essential in a farce, is excellent.
As Bob and Teresa Phillips, Andy Steuart and Leanne Robinson have the least sympathetic roles. Together, their accents falter and, at times, become a caricature. On her own, Robinson confidently sells her role as the frequently wronged wife. Steuart is the morally wrong villain and his mysoginistic behaviour, representing the sexism still prevailing in the 1960's, is not consistently convincing and in this instance, costuming issues for him in terms of pants, jacket and shoes, ie too contemporary/not representative of the period, don't help. Often, modern audiences need support to understand a different social milieu and this is a challenge for Steuart and this cast as well as this play in these times. There is balance and believability between the Fosters and the Featherstones as married couples. It is less so with the Phillips' marriage.
Aled Proeve plays the very controlling, eager to please William Featherstone with confidence and attention to maintaining both his character and accent believably. His work at the shared dinner party, where five of the characters hold two dinner parties simultaneously, shows a sophisticated understanding of the comedy timing needed. In fact, everyone does a laudable job of that scene. It is a great audience pleaser.
As Mary Featherstone, Brittany Daw is a talented and ambitious young performer who uses posture, accent, voice and gesture to create a nervous, reticent woman, accidentally and blissfully unaware (as in all good farces); becoming the focus of the marital indiscretion.
Daw has also undertaken the design of a complex and well-dressed set that cleverly puts two apartments into one room, adding to the farcical interplay and making it seamless and believable. The use of the set by all actors is excellent. Movement between place and time is fluid and is, at times, complex for the actors.
Music, sound and lighting support this production well. The stage looks interesting and is well used with thoughtful directing ensuring that the audience sees two totally different apartments in one appropriately furnished room. This adds to both the humour and audience fun and the actors use this to great effect, seemingly oblivious of each other as part of the visual humour.
Balance and inter-relatedness is important with farce as it creates enough belief to believe the ridiculous. In this production, it works less well between the couples when they interact. Having said that, the dialogue had very good pace for most of the opening night performance with all of the actors confidently delivering the performance of this complex, nuanced farce.
Galleon's production is an audience pleaser, and a timely reminder that to survive being a liar, you need to be really good at it.
Reviewed by Jude Hines
Theatre Association of SA (TASA) Review
If you have never been to a Galleon performance, you are missing a treat. From the welcoming glass of sherry, courtesy of Patritti Wines, to the delightful Domain theatre with its combination of cabaret style tables and tiered seating, to the friendly committee of volunteers and, of course, quality productions.
Their latest production is the 1969 Alan Ayckbourn comedy How The Other Half Loves, a farce following the consequences of an adulterous affair between a married man and his boss's wife and their attempts to cover their tracks by roping in a third couple to be their unknowing alibi, resulting in an hilarious chain of misunderstandings, conflicts and revelations. It is set in a time where the class system was very much in evidence, divorce was frowned upon, men and women lived out traditional roles, and people called each other instead of texting.
Ayckbourn is a master playwright and his works play games with space and time. Here he overlaps two distinct households: one, the posh, upper-class Fosters; the other, the messy, middle-class Phillipses. Director Warren McKenzie ensures that the transitions are seamless and easy to follow, facilitated by the superbly designed set by Brittany Daw. It's rather like watching a split screen on your computer!
This ensemble cast are, without exception, outstanding. This is a complex and challenging piece, and they cope admirably. Andrew Clark portrays the calculatedly vague Frank Foster with wonderful nuance. Joanne St Clair is brilliant as uppity and pretentious Fiona who displays a distinct lack of emotion at the unfolding drama her philandering has caused. The other philanderer, the self-absorbed Bob Phillips, Andy Steuart, is suitably smug. Leanne Robinson rounds out the cast, bringing to life Bob's wife Teresa with feistiness, anger, humour, and vulnerability.
The hapless couple caught between these two are William Featherstone, a boring accounts clerk and his extremely timid wife Mary. The actors playing these roles, Aled Proeve and Brittany Daw, had evidently worked very hard to ensure their comic timing did justice to the synchronisation demanded by the script. This is most apparent in the dinner party scene, where the parties, held on successive nights, play out at the same time, with the Featherstones turning their heads at ever decreasing intervals from the Fosters' table to the Phillipses. The timing is perfect; it is the stuff of classic British comedy.
My only criticism is one that I have with all Ayckbourn's plays in that that some sections could be sped up or omitted without losing character development or comedic value. At 155 minutes including interval, it is a marathon for a farce of this nature.
Don't miss it.
Reviewed by Trish Francis
The Weekend Notes Review
After Alan Ayckbourn's How The Other Half Loves premiered in Scarborough in 1969, it went on to become one of his most successful plays, playing to packed houses in London and New York. Nearly 50 years later it still provokes loud guffaws, but many of the attitudes that it satirises have now become sensitive issues, and on occasions, it had us uncomfortably squirming in our seats.
The plot, as you would expect from an Ayckbourn farce, is highly complicated: Frank Foster is Bob Phillips' boss, and Bob is having a clandestine affair with Frank's wife, Fiona. Bob has a stormy relationship with his wife, Teresa, while Frank and Fiona manage their differences in a supremely middle-class English manner, addressing each other with icy politeness. Things get enormously complicated when both Bob and Fiona explain away their absences by implicating an innocent third party, William and Mary Featherstone.
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Fiona (Joanne St Clair) gives well-meaning advice to Bob (Andy Steuart) and Teresa (Leanne Robinson)
The set is Ayckbourn's piece de resistance: it represents both the Foster residence and the Phillips household at once. In the first act, each couple takes turns to act out their domestic dramas on the same set. In the second act, the Featherstones are invited to dinner at both apartments on consecutive nights, and the two scenes are skilfully swapped back and forth across the set, as the tension and confusion build up to a climax. Just as the final act seems to be resolving the chaos, Frank's interpretation of events serves to complicate the situation even further.
All six actors are well cast and clearly enjoy playing their roles. Joanne St Clair and Leanne Robinson (Fiona and Teresa) were both outstanding in the way they projected not only the personality of their characters but also their innermost thoughts. Andrew Clark (Frank) and Andy Steuart (Bob) dealt valiantly with more stereotyped characters. Frank's absent-mindedness would have been regarded as eccentricity when the play came out, but these days it inevitably implies dementia, adding a poignancy that conflicts with the comic flavour of the performance. Bob is a drunkard and a womaniser, and his assumption that the woman is there to cook and keep the house tidy grates on 21st-century ears - but sadly, those attitudes are still widely accepted in Australian society.
The Featherstones presented a major challenge to actors Aled Proeve and Brittany Daw. William is at the same time obsequious towards his potential boss (Frank) and obsessively controlling over his wife. Mary is painfully shy and nervous, just the sort of female that bullies love to torment. Proeve and Daw made the best of the far from sparkling dialogue that this couple are given to speak, using their body language to further suggest their awkwardness. Through no fault on the actors' part, the second act was slowed down by the lack of wit in William and Mary's conversation, which contrasted with the gathering momentum of tension between the other two couples. But the final act brings some surprises: Mary finally shows some fortitude and briefly puts William in his place, while Bob seems to become a reformed character - probably not for long either - and Teresa has the last laugh.
The theatre has rows of seating at the back of the auditorium with cabaret-style cafe tables in front, butting right up to the stage. This meant that although we had a good view from the tiered seats, we were further away from the stage than we would have liked, and the dialogue was a little hard to hear at times. The set managed to evoke two very different '60s style furnishings at once, but in the process, it had become over-cluttered and distracting. The actors nimbly dodged in and out of the props, however, never once losing the thread of Ayckbourn's fiendishly convoluted plot. The costumes and hairstyles could have had a little more '60s flavour, but there may have been budget restraints.
I highly recommend this production for the exceptional standard of the performance. The Domain Theatre is fortunate to have not just a bar but an excellent cafe attached to it, where you can eat before you go in to watch the play - or you can book a cafe table and BYO food to eat inside the auditorium.
This play will probably amuse you, but it will also give you pause for thought: was Ayckbourn really criticising the mores of his time or did he simply set out to entertain? And how much progress have we made since the '60s? We like to think we are far more able to distinguish and condemn the bullies and misogynists these days, but they still get away with their behaviour in the same way as they did in Ayckbourn's era, by joking about it.
How the Other Half Loves is at 8pm Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays until October 27. There is also a matinee on the 27 at 2pm. Book tickets on the Galleon Theatre group's website or call 83756855.
Reviewed by Julia Wakefield