A One Man Protest
Made in Colchester
Mercury Theatre, Colchester
Friday 26th April 2013
The second of four productions from Ayckbourn's Intimate Exchanges series, the Mercury's hard working cast of two return this week with A One Man Protest after their first run of Events on a Hotel Terrace.
This particular strand of the many interweaving plot lines that make up the ingenious Intimate Exchanges series follows Miles, and introduces us to his frivolous wife, as well as revisiting the four characters we saw in Events on a Hotel Terrace. Chair of Governors Miles is a painfully recognisable character, fantastically realised by Gwynfor Jones, and Ruth Gibson is once again excellent as the flirty and fairly hateful Rowena.
Like many of Ayckbourn's comedies there is an underlying darkness to the story, as we witness this gentle man's breakdown at the news of his wife's frequent and widespread infidelity. Told with such intelligent, careful wit, the audience comfortably chuckles along with conscience free amusement as we watch the farcical scene unfold with Miles locked in his friend's shed, although it is clear he is suffering from a deep and debilitating 5 week bout of depression. A fairly tragic ending too, as we see that 5 years later little of significance has really changed for Miles.
The set is extremely clever, with the nature of this series meaning that the same flexible structure will be in use throughout the various plays. Large set pieces are set and struck smoothly, although the detail involved does not always lend itself to speed. Worth the wait however, the results for each scene are gloriously rich in depth and detail, with some simple but perfectly fitting lighting design to give an ideally pitched switch in feeling between the changing weather and locations.
Although this series overall doesn't quite live up to its "hilarious" billing, with few examples of laugh-out-loud jokes, it is certainly amusing and unquestionably entertaining. The Mercury have undeniably achieved some excellently produced comic theatre that, if it doesn't leave your sides splitting, certainly does leave you with a satisfied smile and a desire to see more. The series continues in May with A Pageant, followed by A Game of Golf in June.