Review: Chesterfield Theatre Company’s production of Relatively Speaking at Rose Theatre

Relatively Speaking, performed by Chesterfield Theatre Company. Simon Gordon, Mark Dowthwaite, Joanne Gordon and Sue Turner.
Relatively Speaking, performed by Chesterfield Theatre Company. Simon Gordon, Mark Dowthwaite, Joanne Gordon and Sue Turner.

Undoubtedly the sign of a good playwright is that their work is as relevant nowadays as when it was written half a century ago.

Alan Aykbourn’s wry social commentary, Relatively Speaking, is 50 years old but has lost none of its appeal to modern-day audiences.

Chesterfield Theatre Company make a great job of interpreting this slant on middle-class life in a production that is pure gold at the town’s Rose Theatre this week.

It’s a play of contrasts in which two very different couples are linked by mistrust, misunderstandings and mistaken identities. One is a long-married pair who has lost that loving feeling for each other, the other is lustful, loved-up and edging towards tying the knot.

Highly competent and confident acting make the four characters believable, invoking sympathy and hilarity as the play twists and turns.

Simon Gordon excels in his role as the twitchy, older husband who turns his guilt over a dirty secret into a weapon of suspicion to punish his wife.

Susan Turner is equally superb as his long-suffering spouse, forced to get her pleasure elsewhere, and making no attempt to put her husband’s mind at ease that she’s not having an affair.

Domestic disharmony is magnfied further by the arrival of the younger characters in the play. Mark Dowthwaite projects his character and voice well as the confident and free-spirited bead-wearing hippy boyfriend. Joanne Gordon bring a lively touch, air of intrigue and great fashion sense to the role of his girlfriend.

LIke the couples at the heart of the drama, the set design by Celia Birch is one of contrasts. The opening scene is played out in a typical Sixties minimalist flat with psychedelic wallpaper and a picture inspired by the musical Hair. The screen at the back of the stage is then flipped back for the rest of the play which is set in the older couple’s garden complete with potted plants and paintings of sundials and a willow tree on the wall.

The flower power era vibe is enhanced by Sixties music in this fab production, which is directed by David Holmes with assistance from Ruth Higginbottom.

Relatively Speaking has its final performance at Rose Theatre tonight (Saturday, May 16) at 7.30pm.