By Katrina ffiske

Salisbury Playhouse opened its Autumn season with a true theatrical bang. Relatively Speaking, is a fast-paced, beautifully-crafted comedy by Alan Ayckbourn. Done badly, it can be a disaster: done well, it is a joy to watch, and this excellent production ticks all boxes.

Relatively Speaking features Greg and Ginny who have been together a month. Greg is keen to marry Ginny, but becomes suspicious when he puts on unfamiliar slippers: is he the only man in her life? Ginny sets off to visit her parents in the country, Greg follows and a stream of misunderstanding turns the day into hilarious chaos.

The vibrant set and costumes designed by James Button takes us straight into the swinging 60s. The London ‘cool’ orange-and-red bedsit swiftly and efficiently changes to a multicoloured manufactured suburban garden, all with pond and fountain.

Jo Newman’s direction brings a modern-day sparkle and energy to what could be a dated production. The actors make good use of the stage which is set effectively at ground level in the round.

Louise Calf is a pleasure to watch as the bubbly, carefree Ginny, confidently dancing circles around her boyfriend Greg, played by Hubert Burton. We are charmed and equally bemused by Burton’s well-played naivety and lack of awareness that makes the play descend into chaos. They both play the banter of a young couple in love, yet on edge, very convincingly.

Louise Calf in Relatively Speaking, Salisbury Playhouse. Credit and copyright: Helen Murray

Caroline Harker, makes a welcome return to the Playhouse following her acclaimed performance as the younger Queen in Handbagged. Harker is marvellous as Sheila, the seemingly downtrodden, wife of the charming Philip played by Tim McMullan. Their timing is immaculate. The audience is welcomed into their morning breakfast scene and immediately wrapped up in a middle-class couple’s daily life.

McMullan skilfully plays the arrogant husband, arranging ‘business trips’. He then expertly falls into despair as guests arrive and secrets unravel.

All four actors completely hold our attention, and there is genuine laughter from the Salisbury audience, with a warm happy buzz as the lights came up.

“What a blissfully uplifting evening,” I heard a member of the audience say as we left.

Relatively Speaking, by Alan Ayckbourn, directed by Jo Newman, continues until September 28.

Tickets are on sale now and can be booked by calling Ticket Sales on 01722 320333 or by visiting www.wiltshirecreative.co.uk.

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