REVIEW: Play explores the comedy of failure

IT’S a long time since I studied Alan Ayckbourn at sixth form, but I really enjoyed his humorous plays and their memorable characters.

Joking Apart was not one of those I was familiar with, but such is Ayckbourn’s ‘easy to access’ style, that anyone can enjoy his work, whether or not you know it beforehand.

The first thing you notice about this production at Nottingham Playhouse is the magnificent garden set that fills the stage.

The tree, grass, summer house and tennis court provide a constant backdrop to the storyline, which spans 12 years in the lives of the three different couples - 1966 to 1978.

The garden belongs to ‘perfect couple’ Anthea and Richard who live in a huge house, are madly in love with each other and generally seem to do everything better than anyone else.

It is the fact that this happiness and success seems so effortless that annoys their friends Sven and Olive.

Olive raises laughs from the audience as she proclaims how she doesn’t understand how Anthea can eat so much and stay so slim, while Sven has spent his life trying to better his business partner Richard - and failing.

The comical tennis match scene brings this to a head and Sven, who can never be wrong, resigns himself to the scrapheap after learning he only won because Richard played left handed.

Local vicar Hugh and neurotic housewife Louise are the polar opposites to Anthea and Richard, which highlights their own failures. You can always tell it won’t end well for them and the actors brilliantly portray their weaknesses and flaws.

The play shows how envy of others has a negative effect on your life and definitely gives you food for thought.

Joking Apart is on at Nottingham Playhouse until 16th February. Tickets are available on 0115 9419419 or at

Helen Beighton