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Review: Surprises, Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: February 27, 2013

By Colin Davison

Alan Ayckbourn's Surprises is a mixed bag of ideas

Alan Ayckbourn's Surprises is a mixed bag of ideas

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MENTION science fiction, author Alan Ayckbourn says in the programme, and "some people climb on a chair and scream."

A bit of chair-climbing and screaming might have spiced up this quirky, baffling, interesting but sometimes frankly dull fantasy.

The play is set in the future when people live to 180. As this is Ayckbourn's 76th play, goodness knows how many he might knock out had he lived then.

There's a typical Ayckbourn twist as the central character travels back in time to change the future. But also alas some un-Ayckbourn-like passages as long as a Scarborough wet weekend.

The piece is rather a rag-bag of ideas, none fully explored or resolved.

Would we still send "I love you" cards on our 100th wedding anniversary?

Are we still the same if, like an old banger still going strong, all our bits are replacements?

The only obvious message from this confusing piece is never to say 'Good morning' to an android, as he might go into an interminable report on the percentage probability of precipitation.

This does however have the merit of being spoken by the excellent Richard Stacey as the love-lorn robot of the publicity poster.

The poster does not, however, convey his maniacal laughter – imagine Ken Dodd being electrocuted.

If we love others for their faults, maybe we'll all one day cuddle a robot.

The multi-role cast is solid, as one expects from Ayckbourn's Stephen Joseph Theatre, with the splendidly husky Sarah Parks and Laura Doddington given the juiciest bits.

Sets are more Blake's Seven than Star Wars. How British. How Scarborough.

Surprises continues til Saturday. Buy tickets on 01242 572573 or www.everymantheatre.org.uk.

Colin Davison

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