How The Other Half Loves ★★★★ The Mill at Sonning | Aug 10 - Sep 23, 2023

The perfect summer day? What about lunch or dinner in the country followed by Alan Ayckbourn's 1969 farce about the perils of infidelity and the pitfalls of dissimulation? The story of three couples connected because the husbands all work together and one of them has had a fling with the boss's wife has a slightly dated quality, but the wonderfully absurd humour and charmingly wacky characters carry the day. The multiple doors of the traditional farce are here, but Ayckbourn supplements them with a conflation of time and place so that the action seems to occur simultaneously. It might be a bit confusing at first, but the audience quickly adjusts to the device and it certainly adds to the fun. Indeed, the piece anticipates the clever dimensional shifting that Ayckbourn employs in his 1973 masterpiece, The Norman Conquests. The humour here comes as much from the delivery as it does from the words, and the cast are quite pitch-perfect. Stuart Fox does a splendid job as the bumbling boss, Frank Foster. This is a role which would have been easy to overplay, but Fox gets it just right. As his wife, Julia Hills is suitably nonplussed as her secret threatens to come out, and we loved her attempt to make small talk with the socially awkward Featherstones, convincingly portrayed by Emily Pithon and Ben Porter. Ruth Gibson as the disorderly Teresa Phillips and Damien Matthews who plays her philandering spouse, Bob Phillips, also rise to the occasion. Michael Holt's set works well, and Robin Herford's critically important pacing of the proceedings is excellent. All in all, How The Other Half Loves and the excellent meal at The Mill at Sonning would make for a delightful outing any time of year.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Andreas Lambis.

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When, Where, Getting there:
  • Aug 10 - Sep 23, 2023
  • Wed - Sat: 8:15 pm. Restaurant open and serving dinner from 6:15 pm - 8 pm
  • Thu (until Aug 31), Sat, Sun (from Sep 3): 2:15 pm. Restaurant open and serving lunch from 12:15 pm - 2 pm
  • The Mill at Sonning
  • Nearest station: Reading

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