|A Rare Ayckbourn Tour-de-Force Comes to The Questors|
30 October - 9th November
Never let it be said that The Questors doesn’t rise to a theatrical challenge. And Sir Alan Ayckbourn’s House & Garden is certainly an exciting test of teamwork and timing!
Ayckbourn has written two plays to be performed simultaneously, but for just one cast who appear in both! The audience watches one at a time, in any order, while the cast members run between theatres appearing in both plays!
As Sir Alan explains, "The idea is that the actors are playing a scene in one play: a chaps says: 'I'm taking the dog for a walk,' and goes out through the door, and then a few seconds later he turns up in the other auditorium, saying: 'Come along, boy!’"
So, with one cast running back and forth, entrances need to be timed to perfection. And with only 90 seconds between some exits and entrances, you can imagine rehearsals have gone from frenetic to very precise as the opening night looms!
Alan Ayckbourn wrote it for his home theatre, the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough and thought it would never be done anywhere else as it required two theatre spaces very close to each other. However The National Theatre staged the ‘double’ play in 2000 between the Lyttleton and the Olivier. And now The Questors’ unique adjoining spaces make the perfect venue.
Questors actors are rising to the challenge – practising by running between two rehearsal rooms that are the farthest apart at The Questors. The directors thought it would be good practice for timing as the real distance between the theatres is actually less!
As well as the cast, everything else is also in twos: two directors, two stage management teams and lighting and sound operators. Design for the show is headed by the cream of Questors set design, lighting, sound, props and costume experts. Bringing it all together, the two stage management crews will be meticulous in their timing to ensure smooth running performances.
The characters and jokes are vintage Ayckbourn and the action in Garden (in The Questors’ Playhouse) takes place in the lower meadow, behind the 'formal' garden of House (played out in The Questors' Studio and taking place in a ground-floor sitting room). In Garden, preparations are underway for the fête, erecting sideshows, tents and maypoles, as we are drawn into relationships between residents, organisers, visitors, a housekeeper and gardener and even dancing children, all colliding for this annual event! In House preparations are also underway for the lunch, which precedes the fête. But with hostess not speaking to the host and special guests including a French actress and a political author, everything adds to the general hilarity of the day’s events!
So come along and witness the fun. A word of warning: if you see one, you’ll want to see the other one, so book both at once! (There’s even a discount if you do.)
House and Garden by Alan Ayckbourn at The Questors Theatre, 30 October to 9 November. Full details and online booking at ealingtheatre.com. Or you can call the Box Office on 020 8567 5184.
16th October 2013