Modern-day followers of Ayckbourn probably fall into two camps:  you either love him no matter what, or you see his plays as dated throw-backs to the 1970s.  The audience at the Devonshire Park Theatre watching the latest in-house production of Round and Round the Garden could be forgiven for being a little confused.   What they saw in this clever, witty production, was no hark back to a bygone era of forty years ago, but a skilfully directed and acted play that was ageless yet definitely of its time!   Had it not been for the music of the 70s – and the absence of the ubiquitous mobile phone – this production of the final play in the Norman Conquest trilogy could have been set in the modern day – although perhaps the driving gloves and the cord trousers were a bit of a give-away!   Even the wonderfully designed and dressed set of the exterior of the house and the garden – complete with lawn (with weeds!) did not date the play.

It was a somewhat surreal experience for The Friends to welcome the cast and company to the bar, for how do you welcome so many old friends – especially when one is the theatre’s Artistic Director on his own patch?  Chris was accompanied by his wife, Natasha Gray, who had portrayed the part of bossy Sarah so convincingly!

Front Row (l-r): Natasha Gray, David Partridge, Jo Castleton Back Row: Chris Jordan, Sarah Stanley, Kevin Pallister

Front Row (l-r): Natasha Gray, David Partridge, Jo Castleton
Back Row: Chris Jordan, Sarah Stanley, Kevin Pallister

The whole evening had a sense of reunion – so wonderful to see and chat to Friends’ Patron, Kevin Pallister, and other cast members who have appeared in shows in recent months – notably Jo Castleton, David Partridge and Sarah Stanley.

Sadly, the one cast member who was missing was Charles Davies, who had played the role of Lothario, Norman, so brilliantly. He had been forced to head off to the local A & E Department having injured his leg during the first scene.  The audience had been completely unaware of his demise, assuming his limping around the stage was all part of the characterisation!  We were all relieved to learn that Charles was able to return to the stage the following day – albeit with a heavily strapped leg.  Even Patric Kearns from Talking Scarlet, who had been quite a fixture at our Bar Receptions over the past month, had returned to join the party!