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Preview: Ayckbourn black comedy at the People's Theatre

The talented People's Theatre amateurs tackle a play about mental collapse

Paula Smart The cast of Woman In Mind at the People's Theatre
The cast of Woman In Mind at the People's Theatre

Nobody does Alan Ayckbourn better than the talented People’s Theatre amateurs when they’re on song – and you could say they’ve had plenty of practice.

The prolific playwright has been a staple of their repertoire for many years, as is the case for many of the country’s drama groups.

The thing about Ayckbourn – as often performed as Shakespeare, many will tell you – is that with 78 plays to his name he offers plenty of choice.

And with spring budding around us – days lengthening and plants flowering – the Newcastle company have opted for, as they say, “one of the writer’s blacker comedies”, Woman in Mind

They tell us: “Much different from a lot of Ayckbourn’s earlier work, and considered by many to be one of his best, the play charts the gradual mental collapse of Susan (Penny Lamport), a housewife and mother who is no longer sure what her role in the world is.

“Her disinterested husband, priggish son and appalling sister-in-law do nothing to help her make her life meaningful. So she retreats into fantasy, creating in her mind an ideal world with a perfect family and a glorious country estate.

“The play is told through Susan’s eyes, and as she declines the line between the real world and her imaginings gets increasingly blurry, and fantasy and reality become confused.”

Director Kate Wilkins says in this play, first performed in 1985, Ayckbourn tackles “something of a taboo subject for comedy” but has nevertheless created beautifully drawn characters.

The play, she adds, is “funny, poignant and very affecting”.

It runs at the People’s Theatre, Stephenson Road, Newcastle, from May 6-10. Tickets: 0191 2655020 visit: www.peoplestheatre.co.uk

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