Relatively Speaking
Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne,
Tuesday 14th to Saturday 18th February

by Tony Flood

Relatively Speaking, the comedy that gave Alan Ayckbourn his first West End hit 56 years ago, has survived the test of time and provided an entertaining evening at the Devonshire Park Theatre on Tuesday despite the absence of two of its stars.
Liza Goddard and Steven Pacey were both unable to perform due to covid, but their understudies, Bella Farr and Gareth Clarke, were superb.
This cleverly constructed play is based on classic cases of mistaken identity caused by infidelity, deceit and marital misery.
An uncertain start sees the naive Greg (Antony Eden) bemused as his girlfriend Ginny (Olivia Le Andersen) lies to him about the flowers and gifts that have arrived in her flat and a men’s pair of slippers being under the bed.
The pace – and our interest – increase when Greg desperately proposes marriage just before Ginny dashes off to supposedly visit her parents in the country.
He finds a scribbled address and follows Ginny to ask for her father’s consent. But the man he presumes to be her father is actually Ginny’s former boss Philip with whom she’s been having an affair which she now wants to end.
Greg’s blunder sees him chat in turn to ‘Ginny’s parents’. The arrogant Philip assumes he is being confronted by the lover his wife Sheila (Farr) had been fantasising about.
As a result, everyone is talking at cross-purposes and confusion increases, with Philip wrongly believing Greg wants to marry his wife!
Credibility is stretched to its limits but this bizarre situation appeals to us due to Ayckbourn’s clever word-play, backed by four actors showing great comic timing.
Relatively Speaking also benefits from the shrewd direction by Robin Herford and the excellent sets of Peter McKintosh, who takes us from a dishevelled flat in London to Sunday morning breakfast in the idyllic garden of a country manor.

Picture: Tristram Kenton