Round And Round The Garden

(Part of the trilogy of plays The Norman Conquest)
Written by Alan Ayckbourn, Directed by Philip Wilson
Liverpool Playhouse
25th May - 23rd June 2012

Reviewed by Colin Serjent
Photograph by Jonathan Keenan

Round And Round The Garden was the third of the trilogy of The Norman Conquest to be shown on the same day at the Playhouse but it did not matter that I was not in attendance at the first two. Each can be viewed as an independent play in themselves and seen in any sequence.

All the plays take place in a different location within a single house based in the English countryside set over an eventful single weekend - Table Manners in the dining room, Living Together in the sitting room and Round And Round The Garden, not surprisingly, outside. They are three individual jigsaws set within a larger jigsaw.

Written by Alan Ayckbourn in 1973 - at times the production does have a dated feel to it, notably the similiarity at times to Brian Rix's Whitehall Theatre farces, so popular in the 1960's - the play unfolds when randy Norman (Philip Cumbus) - a David Bellamy look-alike, with his overgrown whiskers - he describes himself as a 'gigolo trapped inside a haystack' - has a planned nudge, nudge weekend away with Annie (Laura Howard) called off, leaving him staying at her house, along with his long-suffering wfe Ruth ( Emily Pithon), Annie's tedious brother Reg (Oliver Birch) and his snooty wife Sarah (Sarah Tansey) and half-witted Tom (Tom Davey), who fancies Annie but does not have a clue how to seduce her.

On the other hand Norman is a dab hand at seduction but there is little about him to get the pulse racing. But maybe that's the point Ayckborn is trying to make - how women's choice of a male partner is so often misjudged and ends in tears.

One of the funniest scenes in an amiable enough critique of middle-class angst is when Norman and Annie are in love making mode on the garden grass, while Tom and Reg, standing a couple of yards away, are waffling on about cars, blissfully unaware of the steamy passion going on behind them.

The revolving set design, devised by Matthew Wright, is impressive, showing the interior of the house, used in the other two plays. Also you can almost feel the warm rays of the sun as portrayed in the garden setting.

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