Relatively Speaking

By Alan Ayckbourn

Theatre Royal Bath

Until Saturday December 3

Innocence, naiveté and duplicity are carefully blended in Ayckbourn’s comedy of misunderstandings.

It has not been updated from its original Sixties setting and quite rightly. The skewed love triangle situation created by Ayckbourn is timelessly very funny anyway, but as an aside it also amusing to be reminded that you could get a day return on British Rail on a Sunday, from London to the home counties, for under £1.

There are impeccable performances from Robert Powell and Liza Goddard as Philip and Sheila, the couple lovestruck young Greg (Antony Eden) takes to be his girlfriend’s parents.

The timing of body language and sudden changes of facial expression are as vital to the comedy as the delivery of the dialogue. And they are all razor sharp.

The laughs - which come thick and fast - are largely about very British politeness in the face of apparent lunacy. Only the audience has the full picture.

The characters mostly have their wires crossed except for the two who own the guilty secret, but then they have to go along with the misconceptions to save face, so it becomes a double and treble bluff.

Eden maintains a perfect artlessness as the naive young lover who vaguely suspects his girlfriend is not being entirely straight with him. But in his innocence he misinterprets all the signals and blunders into a potentially explosive situation. There are some particularly delicious exchanges between earnest Eden and incredulous Powell.

Lindsey Campbell plays Ginny, Greg’s girlfriend. At first I found her little shrill and unconvincing but as the pace accelerated she found a more sympathetic rhythm and credibility.

If you want a hearty laugh to warm up a chilly winter night - go see it.