Round and Round the Garden

Alan Ayckbourn
CP Theatre Productions
Putney Arts Theatre
(2010)

The potted plants, patchy grass and garden ornaments dotted about the Putney Arts Theatre stage have been jigsawed enthusiastically but inexpertly from slabs of MDF, and the texture and detail added with a thick black marker. Never before has scenery been so neatly allegoric of an entire production than in this, CPTP's performance of Round and Round the Garden (the third in Ayckbourn's interwoven Norman Conquests trilogy).

The whole shebang - in which a semi-unplanned reunion of three siblings and their significant others at their invalid mother's country house leads to ill-advised liaisons and lessons learned (almost) all round - suffers simultaneously from a lack of subtlety and of focus. The cast drift and shuffle uncertainly about the stage, and while they throw themselves with abandon at their characters' most prominent aspects - having fun with Tom's awkwardness, or Norman's lasciviousness - the characterisation, like the set, cannot be convincing without colour and shade.

The company hit enough of Ayckbourn's lines to keep the giggles trickling in, but so much of his humour stems from the characters that in the absence of consistent and believable characterisation, the impact of the whole production is dulled.

Until 13 March

Reviewer: Matt Boothman