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Past Shows (2000-now)
Relatively Speaking
16-22 April 2001
Day & Night
By Jacobus Raj

The minute I walked into the theatre to watch Relatively Speaking, which was staged at the Actors Studio Bangsar by Gardner & Wife, I had to stop and catch my breath. The stage had really been very carefully constructed and the props were very well-designed. After the impressive first impression, I sat down and hoped that the entire production would be as good, if not better, than the set design.

The play, which was written by Alan Ayckbourn, was first opened in England in 1967. The plotline of the farce has been revamped and the situations changed to resemble present-day Malaysia but the plotlines remain that of Sir Alan.

The story demonstrates how lies can get out of hand and how one little white lie can lead to another which in turn lead to hilarious consequences in the end. The story opens in Ginny's (Sofia Jane) apartment in that haven of yuppies, Bangsar. She has a new man in her life, Greg (Nick Barnes), but the problem is, she has not gotten rid of the old one. Her previous love, Philip (Thakurdas Jethwani), is old enough to be her father and is married to Sheila (Anne James).

Fed-up of lying to Greg, Ginny decides to pay a visit to Philip to permanently end their relationship and retrieve some rather imprudent photographs of herself that she have given to him. On the morning of her visit, she tells Greg that she is actually going to visit her parents. He, in turn, has been asking awkward questions about the large amount of flowers that she has received and also the candy boxes wrapped nicely in the cupboard. She cooks up a story about friends and even the flower seller in Bangsar which Greg seems to take at face value.

Greg then pops that all-important question and asks Ginny to marry him. She tells him she needs time to think and runs off to Kajang where her supposed parents live. Greg then gets a brainwave. Having seen a Kajang address in the SMS on Ginny's handphone, he decides to pre-empt her and takes a taxi all the way to Kajang to ask her father for his daughter's hand in marriage.

This leads to a whole jumble of misunderstandings because Philip, whom Ginny has actually gone to see, suspects his wife of having an affair. When Greg, the mat salleh, shows up and asks to marry someone, he automatically assumes he is talking about Sheila. Things come to a head and Philip refuses permission. Thinking he has offended Philip, Greg asks Sheila to intercede. This is when Ginny finally shows up.

The foursome settle down for lunch and it isn't long before everyone, except Greg, understands what is going on. Being a farcical comedy, everything does end well and Greg rides off into the sunset with Ginny in tow but the humour and the actions of the cast really got the audience laughing from quite early on in the show.

Nick Barnes was specially flown in from London to play the role of Greg and his acting was good. His experience clearly showed and he pulled off the role with flair. His deadpan expression, even while delivering some hilarious lines, rightly managed to portray the slightly bemused and naïve Greg. Thakurdas Jethwani as Philip was also an excellent choice. He managed to portray Philip quite perfectly as the slightly pompous man who dominates his wife and then wonders why he doesn't seem to love her anymore.

The two women in the play, Anne James and Sofia Jane, were also good, though Sofia's two years away from the stage did show but she managed to keep pace with the other actors well. Anne James as the mousy Sheila also seemed a very good choice. All in all, the acting did not leave much to be desired and it was obvious that the rest of the audience felt likewise, what with the laughter and applause that greeted each scene change.

The producers have indeed produced a worthy successor to their last effort into farce with the well-received Charley's Auntie! last year. Hopefully, this trend continues as the time is ripe for farce to become a standard of Malaysian theatre.