ALAN Ayckbourn’s hilarious 1990s play The Things We Do For Love has been revived for a new tour which opened in Bath last week.
The Theatre Royal stage was transformed into a mid-terrace, three-story suburban London home in a set as important to the play as the four main characters.
Predominantly the action takes place in the immaculate living room of Barbara (Claire Price), a fiercely independent spinster who rents her downstairs apartment to the rather eccentric Gilbert (Simon Gregor) and upstairs to her lovesick old school friend Nikki (Natalie Imbruglia).
Inspired by Clint Eastwood film In the Line of Fire, upstairs we only catch glimpses of feet and ankles as Nikki and new beau Hamish (Edward Bennett) make the place their own and downstairs we see Gilbert, whose obsession with his landlady has reached new heights, strapped to the ceiling painting a gigantic naked homage to her.
The vast contrast between the orderly state of Barbara’s flat compared to the relative disorder of those above and below is not lost on the audience and cleverly reflects the sheer chaos which erupts when Barbara and Hamish surprise themselves by becoming embroiled in a steamy affair.
Claire Price, a well known face on television series such as Midsomer Murders, Poirot and Rebus, leads the field as the feisty Barbara with a stellar performance which is both touching and laugh-out-loud funny. Her spats with Hamish, particularly over his vegetarianism (‘and he’s Scottish!), are worth the ticket money alone.
Making her stage debut, Torn singer Natalie Imbruglia is well cast as flighty Nikki, the kind of friend everyone has who falls in love too easily and needs looking after. The former Neighbours star has a natural stage presence and likeability despite her character’s assertion her annoying habits must be to blame for having being beaten black and blue in her previous relationship.
Simon Gregor, another familiar TV face, plays one of the best drunks ever seen on stage when poor Gilbert has one too many such is his over excitement at being asked to Barbara’s for dinner. He is the perfect antidote to the passionate fights between his fellow cast members and with just two words, the oft-repeated ‘Hello Barbara’ in a whiny, almost resigned delivery, he has the entire audience in stitches.
Edward Bennett plays a dashing Hamish who proves his metal in savage ripostes of Barbara’s initial and constant put-me-downs.
The Things We Do For Love is a wonderful, funny modern glimpse of our inner struggles, our dreams and desires and a look at relationships in whatever form they happen to take.
It is already widely loved, hence the revival, and as Ayckbourn himself says ‘it appeals to people who may have been around the block’.
The Things We Do For Love is on at the Theatre Royal Bath until Saturday, April 26.