A Brief History of Women, Alan Ayckbourn’s new comedy is now playing at the New Vic Theatre in Newcastle-under-Lyme.
The play starts in 1925 England, with Anthony Spates (Antony Eden) a young farmer who takes on a part time job as a butler at the manor house. The manor house is an important focal point alongside Spates’ life.
The play is in four distinct parts, each showing the life of an ordinary man, Spates and all of the remarkable women he encounters at different stages of his life.
The title is quite ironic, because it makes you think the play is completely different to what is portrayed. For someone like myself, who had no idea what I as getting into, it was a pleasant surprise and delight to watch.
The beginning is quite unsettling and fiery, with Spates being involved in an awkward romantic encounter with Lady Kirkbridge (Frances Marshall) after she has an almost violent argument with her husband, Lord Kirkbridge (Russell Dixon).
Throughout the fiery scenes, the dry, very English comedy slips through to keep the writing balanced, and the audience laughing. The comedy aspect was a favourite part of mine as it’s very British humour.
As the manor house is the focal point of the play, every part is presented in the house but the presentation of the house changes.
At first it is the manor house where the more privileged people in life live; it is then a school where Spates teaches; then a drama club with Spates as an administrator, and finally, a hotel where Spates is a former manager.
Not only do the parts change so smoothly with the props being changed to suit the era, but the actors do incredibly well to change characters so quickly. It’s a real pleasure to watch and experience the talent of others.
Not only is the acting superb, but the realistic sounds of a school rush during the second part is great, and gives a sense of reality to the show.
Alan Ayckbourn’s writing is outstanding. At 78-years-old he is a real master of his craft and showcases different types of women and how women have changed over time with a great big dose of comedy!
A Brief History of Women is showing at the New Vic Theatre, Newcastle-Under-Lyme from 12 October until 29 October 2017.