Life and Beth
Paul Johnson | 07 Dec 2013 10:35am
Life and Beth is a more recent and lesser known Alan Ayckbourn play, and deals with the difficult subject of bereavement and death with gentle humour. According to the nicely informative programme, Network’s Theatre’s production is the first time the play has been staged in London.
Recently bereaved (but also rather relieved) Beth is getting on quite nicely without her overbearing husband Gordon, and is rather looking forward to a quiet Christmas. However, her well-meaning family have other ideas, and descend on her to give the same Christmas she has always endured, complete with flashing reindeer and malfunctioning fairy lights. To add to her woes, her cat Flagstaff has disappeared and departed husband Gordon has decided that she can’t manage her life alone, and so has decided to return (after sorting out Heaven) to micromanage her life for her, as he has always had done.
Suzy de Lezameta gave a lovely, understated performance as the frustrated widow Beth. Her deadpan delivery among the chaos of her family provided some nice comic moments, and we saw a woman more than capable of running her own life, but too polite tell her family so.
Susan Small gave us some great laugh out loud moments, as boozy sister in law Connie, determined to give Beth a relaxing Christmas (though rather resentfully so), but ends up taking the festive season a little too far instead.
Mike Wyer as the comforting, if forgetful parish priest, with an obvious crush on Beth was sweetly engaging, though at times the bumbling, nervous routine overwhelmed the dialogue and the audience struggled to keep track of the lines.
Peter Holmes as son Martin is clearly in the mould of his father; overbearing and convinced that he knows what is best for his mother. However, Martin was also extremely loveable, and Peter’s portrayal was of a man, that is simply eager to do the right thing by everyone, even if his view of what constitutes the right thing is somewhat misguided. His girlfriend, Ella (Rosalind Morris), while too overwhelmed by the enthusiastic Martin to actually say anything, did a great job of portraying to the audience exactly what she thought of this family through her body language and facial expressions.
Neil Bird gave a fine performance as Beth’s departed husband Gordon. His appearances in the family home were quite spooky, but it was quickly apparent that this was a man that you would not want to spend a bus ride with, never mind a lifetime. He made the character instantly recognisable as the sort of know-it-all bore everyone has met, but tries to avoid.
The Network Theatre, tucked away under Waterloo station, is a nice theatre with a good stage space. The play all takes place in the living room, and the set was nicely realistic, with slick lighting, and well used for comic effect, with characters popping through the hatch at inopportune moments.
Overall, the play was a nice piece of Christmassy fun, with some good performances from the actors. The first act lacked a little in pace, but by the second act, the actors were well in their stride and it flowed along nicely. The audience appeared to have a great time, with plenty of laughs along the way. Many thanks to Network Theatre for a most enjoyable evening.
- : admin
- : 04/12/2013