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Thursday, 29 September 2022

REVIEW: Woman in Mind at the Chichester Festival Theatre

Sir Alan Ayckbourn has written and produced more than eighty full-length plays since his first in the late fifties and established himself as one of Britain’s most prolific and successful comedy writers. In the sixties and seventies, he had a string of hugely successful plays based largely around middle-class families in crisis but often with a brilliant theatrical trick that made them stand out from the rest. In 1985 he wrote Woman in Mind which has a very different darker feel but is still firmly rooted in the eighties culture. When do you remember your local Doctor last visiting you at home three times in a 48-hour period! Or did he?

It is written entirely as if seen through the eyes of Susan, a woman in a loveless marriage with an errant son who avoids contact with his parents. She has developed an alternative reality with an imagined family. Following an accident, with a rake in her garden, we see her increasingly confusing merger of these two realities. The characters she imagines as her mental state declines are like a collection of stereotypical stock characters from a seventies Ray Cooney farce, the bumbling vicar, the cheery old Doctor, the wayward young man, the incompetent housekeeper, the upper-class fool, and the attractive blonde bride. Yet here the tone is darker, the comic moments mildly amusing rather than laugh-out-loud funny and the interplay between the two alternative worlds too often misses the opportunity for her spoken out loud lines to be misheard by the other alternative world.
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