How The Other Half Loves: World Premiere ReviewsThis page contains reviews of the world premiere production of Alan Ayckbourn's How The Other Half Loves at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, in July 1969. It is not a complete set of reviews as the aim of the page is to offer a flavour of how the play was originally received and to offer a cross-section of opinion. All reviews on this page are the copyright of the respective publication and / or author and should not be reproduced. Extracts from reviews of the original West End production of How The Other Half Loves can be found here.
New Ayckbourn Comedy Is Hilarious
"If ever a play was destined for a West End theatre and television, too, it is Alan Ayckbourn's new one, the appropriately titled How The Other Half Loves, which had its world premiere in the round in Scarborough's Library Theatre last night.
The young professional company, which has already given us three memorable plays in the theatre this summer, does full justice to this comedy - the sixth from Mr. Ayckbourn's pen to have first seen the light of the day in Scarborough.
In How The Other Half Loves the cast, directed by Mr. Ayckbourn, copes immaculately with a sort of composite set which could so easily baffle the audience. They time their lines and act so well that it all seems quite natural.
The concept also ensures that the action is continuous. The play swung along at a cracking pace and well deserved the enthusiastic applause which came at the end of each act and at the close.
A very Lady Wilder-ish Elisabeth Sladen is having an affair, with a very Colin Edwynn-ish Colin Edwynn, who works in the office of her vague teddy-bearish executive husband, Jeremy Franklin. The mix-ups start when the two lovers have to invent for their almost unsuspicious spouses a quick alibi for a late night out together. The alibi happens to involve the methodical William (Brian Miller) and his mouse-like wife Mary (Elizabeth Ashton), and Jeremy Franklin's well-meaning attempts to sort out William and Mary's non-existent marital difficulties cause chaos and some hilarious misunderstandings, which make terrific theatre."
(Scarborough Evening News, 1 August 1969)
How The Other Half Loves (by Robin Thornber)
"Relatively speaking this is not a great play. But Alan Ayckbourne's [sic] new marital comedy, which opened at the Scarborough Library Theatre on Thursday is exceptionally good of its kind. Two things lift it above the humdrum domestic farce. The first is the device of superimposing both living rooms in which the confusion of couples takes place on to one ingeniously dovetailed set, even to splitting chairs down the middle. This sharpens the contrast between the lifestyles of the couples - one pair of whom takes the "Times," the other the "Guardian" - and heightens the counterpoint as the dialogue switches across the acting area between characters invisible to each other. It's a daring and delicate move which brilliantly enhances the to and fro of the plot in this production in the round directed by the author.
The other delight in this production is the sharpness of the only slightly overdrawn characterisation, which gives point to the sparkle of it. Jeremy Franklin as the shrewd yet obtuse Frank discovers plots and stratagems in every red herring with hearty shock, yet blunders over the liaison between his wife (Elisabeth Sladen flourishing as a cut-glass Fiona) and Bob the lovable lout (Colln Edwynn). Stephanie Turner is Bob's warm, worn, woman's page wife. Brian Miller, the correct William, and Elizabeth Ashton, the mousey Mary are the bewildered innocents. They could be typecast."
(The Guardian, 1 August 1969)
A New Comedy By Alan Ayckbourn
"If it’s laughter you're after, see How The Other Half Loves, a new comedy by Alan Ayckbourn given a premiere at Scarborough Theatre-in-the-Round last week. Mr. Ayckbourn certainly has an imaginative genius for devising extraordinarily surprising and comic situations and curtains [sic], and very nearly approximates laughter with every line.
The title of his new comedy gives no clue to what it is all about, but you soon find out that three married couples are involved and that ill-informed and misinformed mischievous gossip inevitably leads to a matrimonial mix-up, noisy quarrels, shouting matches and even blows at what should have been a gaily convivial evening dinner party of friends.
The company of six - Jeremy Franklin, Stephanie Turner, Elisabeth Sladen, Colin Edwynn, Brian Miller and Elizabeth Ashton - give a very slick and diverting performance. The matrimonial mix-up begins with one couple having an affair and having to invent a quick alibi for a late-night out together. The alibi goes wrong, somehow another couple is involved and finally a third, probably the most innocent of the lot, and the well meaning efforts of one of the party to straighten matters out causes chaos, misunderstandings, a fight and a black eye."
(The Stage, August 1969)
Three Without Dividing Line (by Desmond Pratt)
"Thirteen years* ago this playwright started in Theatre in the Round in Scarborough as an assistant stage manager in charge of lighting and properties.
Several years ago he tentatively wrote and had presented a play in this same theatre called Meet My Father.
It was to become the great comedy success Relatively Speaking and I can quite confidently prophesy the same destiny for his latest work.
It concerns three married couples who interact together in two super-imposed flats - which are in fact one - without knowing each other are there.
So we have the unique sight of three couples all on the same stage without any dividing line and speaking to each other across the third pair.
The complex problem of marital relationships is extended quite naturally to a modern version of restoration farce where every husband is cuckold, every wife betrayed, and hypocrisy, humbug and deceit are rife.
It is played with confidence by a company of six - Jeremy Franklin, Stephanie Turner, Elisabeth Sladen, Colin Edwynn, Brian Miller and Elizabeth Ashton."
(Yorkshire Post, 1 August 1969)
A Comedy That Can Romp To Success (by Gerard Dempsey)
"If this play follows the success pattern of author Alan Ayckbourn’s last domestic comedy - stand by for blast off!
For 30-year old radio producer Mr Ayckbourn, from Leeds, wrote Relatively Speaking, the West End and Broadway hit** which was hailed as the decade’s funniest play, was a box office bomb on four continents and pulled in £500 a week for the author.
So what is he doing putting on the world premiere of his newest piece at a seaside rep?
Well, Mr Ayckbourne [sic] started his career at this little theatre as an assistant stage manager 13* years ago and he isn’t the kind of man to forget his beginnings.
Here he is directing his own play, and accepting in a modest programme note, that comparisons are inevitable between this and his earlier success.
“It's an exploration of the same sort of theme,” he says, “But with a few decided differences.”
The differences include the uneasy device of confining all the action to a single acting space with two families living their lives each unaware of the other, and, in places, with the time sequence between them 24 hours out of joint.
It sounds impossible but Mr Ayckbourn’s superb stagecraft makes it work as an uproariously funny essay in domestic ‘mixed doubles’.’
It is a trickier play than Relatively Speaking but it is as merry a romp and with luck and shrewd selling could repeat its success."
(Daily Express, 1 August 1969)
*Alan Ayckbourn actually joined the company twelve years earlier in 1957.
**Relatively Speaking was not a Broadway hit and did not even receive its American premiere until the year after this review was published.
All reviews are copyright of the respective publication.