Not as together as it should be

TR
23rd June 1995 at 01:00
Living Together by Alan Ayckbourn, Watermill Theatre, Newbury, Berkshire. Like its two companions in The Norman Conquests, this slice of Ayckbourn's naughty weekend that never was (or that erupts in so many unexpected ways) is so well-devised it can survive not only without the twin buttresses of its companions but even being treated as an old-style stock rep. sit-com.

At the Watermill there is a delightful set, a V-shaped room segment allowing a sense of depth on the tiny stage, with substantial, elegant and time-mixed (sixties record player, push-button phone) furnishings, still leaving some room for actors. Indeed, not bumping inot the furniture (though Norman clambers over it) is this production's main achievement.

Despite some good moments from several of the actors the comic pace is too often undermined by less than split-second dialogue and slightly ill-timed entries. Zip becomes Zzzz and what is described as all hell being let loose nearby is just mild noises off.

It would be hard to guess from Newbury how this play, like the trilogy, exploits visual hilarity. More seriously, Annie is never allowed to develop any degree of independence as the weekend wears on. And Norman - is he "definitely evil" as Annie says or an innocent just cheering people up? who knows, given a performance so essentially tame he's neither devil nor benign social engineer, just the chump from next door?

Living Together by Alan Ayckbourn, Watermill Theatre, Newbury, Berkshire, to July 22. Runs two hours. Tickets 01635 46044.

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