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If I Were You by Alan Ayckbourn

Date

2nd June 2018

Society

Cuckfield Dramatic Society

Venue

Queen's Hall, Cuckfield

Type of Production

Play

Director

Harriet Sheldon

Report

Author: Dee Sharpe

There is always a lovely welcome and a great atmosphere from Cuckfield Dramatic Society. Their big-heartedness is growing their membership and their accomplished performances fill the seats.  Friends who saw this production the evening before I did said "you’re in for a treat", and  "it was utterly brilliant,”  so my expectations were high from the outset. However I was still blown away by the excellence of this one.

It was refreshing to discover this Alan Ayckbourn gem. The plot has chauvinistic dinosaur Mal (Philip Robinson) married to depressed, downtrodden wife Jill (Lorraine Jordan) whose self esteem is at rock bottom because she’s aware he is having an affair. One morning each wakes up in the other’s body and as a result has to live the other’s life. The results are confusing and hilarious but also perceptive as they finally gain a better understanding of each other and their family.

This was such a funny play threaded with comedy gold which glistened with the highly polished performances of the actors; yet it also had dark threads running through it. Director Harriet Sheldon wove these together skilfully, creating a multi-dimensional effect, with excellent pace and numerous touches that added extra dollops of humour or pathos.

The leads were especially challenging in that they had to transform to be a male in a female body and vice versa. Philip and Lorraine gave outstanding performances especially the initial shock as they come to terms with what has happened and their reversed roles portrayed with perfect body language, voice and facial expressions. Their interractions with each other and the rest of their family were eye wateringly comical.  The other actors also gave superb performances. Anton Smith was the couple’s sensitive son Sam, absolutely believable as he demonstrated his loathing of Mal and then his total bewilderment after his parent’s body switch. Simon Perkins was totally believable as caveman-like son-in-law Dean and Atanaska Angelova equally so as his dutiful wife, trying to placate everybody, including her baby.

The set had stage areas allocated and furnished as the bedroom, lounge and kitchen. The use of doors and the bedroom curtain to the bathroom quickly made it clear that these were separate rooms although the open plan set allowed the audience to see what was occurring in different rooms simultaneously. Clever lighting created the right time of day and atmosphere.  Piped music and a change of lighting transformed the scene into the interior of a furniture store. The back view of a television was a clever touch as the lights within flickered, and the timing of the controller turning it off, on or adjusting the volume was impeccable.

There were too many highlights to list them all, but some of my favourites for the acting, timing and sheer comedy gold, were:-

  • Mal and Dean getting drunk.
  • Mal as Jill in an outrageously awful outfit.
  • Sam going to give his usual kiss to Mum Jill (who is really Dad Mal) who recoils in horror.
  • Jill as Mal speaking to Mal’s lover.
  • Mal as Jill doing his/her make up.
  • Jill as Mal in rubber gloves baffling Dean by cleaning the office.
  • Mal as Jill quickly crossing her legs when ‘cutting it off’ is mentioned.
  • Jill as Mal being nice to customers, again, baffling Dean.
  • Sam quoting Shakespeare as Mal as Jill looks on with Chrissie.
  • Mal as Jill hitting Dean and really hurting his (actually her) own hand.

A laugh-out-loud joy of a production.  Congratulations and thank you Cuckfield Dramatic Society.