Communicating Doors | 23rd – 28th April 2018

Communicating Doors by Alan Ayckbourn.

Directed by Kerry Heywood

A dominatrix is hired for an elderly man by the hotel caretaker, but the man doesn’t want sexual services.

He wants her to witness a confession to the murders of his two previous wives by his psychopathic partner.

The dominatrix finds a link through time: can she escape with her own life and go back through time to rescue the wives before they can be killed?

Cast

Julian……. Howard James
Poopay….  Alice Heather
Ruella…… Janet Edden
Jessica….   Ruth Aylward
Reece…..    Rob Chambers
Harold…..   Ian Evans

Review by Theo Spring

“Playwright Alan Ayckbourn put something of almost every theatrical genre into Communicating Doors, making it intriguing for the audience and certainly demanding for the cast and director.

There’s tension and terror shaken up with a good dose of comedy and a plot with not one but two clever twists at the end.

Fully up to these demands, the cast wholly created their very different characters from the sinister Julian to the comic Harold, with a dominatrix thrown in for good measure and a husband whose wives had both met untimely ends.

Alice Heather’s dominatrix Poopay certainly provided the wow factor in her leather costume at the start of the play, morphing into an almost entirely different person under her ‘real’ name of Phoebe. Hardly off the stage and faultless on her lines, she convincingly changed again as one of the unexpected ‘twists’. The interaction between Phoebe and Ruella – an equally load-bearing role expertly and enthusiastically delivered by Janet Sharrock – created unrelenting pace as Ruella – the second Mrs Wells – moved from one plan to the next to try and avert both her own predicted murder and that of the first Mrs Wells – Jessica.

Set in Adrian Pope’s beautifully-decorated hotel room which identified as being replicated throughout the hotel depending on which room number it was, there is a mystery cupboard in which individuals, rather like Dr. Who’s Tardis, travel in time. Part of the intrigue relied on not knowing which year it would be when each traveller returned to the room. Clever Ruella worked out what was happening and gave Phoebe a most plausible explanation, partly for the benefit of the audience I suspect.

Julian, is a nasty piece of work, here given wonderful menace by Howard James. He is business partner to Reece whom we meet as an old man, a honeymooner and a dad, with Rob Chambers accomplishing all three realistically. First wife Jessica also travels in time, eventually believing a warning from Ruella who knows she will be murdered by drowning. Here, Ruth Rylward moved Jessica from her frivolous honeymoon to a smart wife – but this time not married to Mr Wells. The details of evil doings are all revealed in a confession by Reece who, as an old man, unburdens himself in writing – the paper falling into a reluctant Phoebe’s hands. Thanks to the time travelling, she is able to warn Ruella of her imminent death by being thrown over the hotel balcony.

The comic input to the play is in the safe hands of Ian Evans as the hotel’s Security Manager whose delivery, facial and body language caused laughter at almost every entrance. His anguish at keeping patient when life in his hotel turned curious and his obsequiousness to both wives, whom he meets in his own different time frames, was a delight.

Based on an original by Osmanie Ellas set designer Alan Matthews positioned the fatally-attractive cupboard centre stage, with its gauze front to allow time-transferring lighting and occupant to be seen. The adjoining bathroom was a triumph with smart white hardware, and the envisaged hotel corridor worked well too.

Under the perspicacious direction of Kerry Heywood, this cast of six had worked hard to perfect their characterisations and their delivery, culminating in a production delivering both laughter and trepidation to an appreciative audience.”