How The Other Half Loves

Two worlds collide in the Maddermarket’s production of Alan Ayckbourn’s comedic tale of lust, misunderstanding and hastily arranged dinner parties.

The intriguingly staged How the Other Half Loves literally throws two couples’ lives together, with their two flats merged in to one on stage and the action simultaneously weaving between the high-living Fosters and the common-as-muck Philips.

It’s a testament to the sharp timing of the cast and director Rob Morris that this feat is pulled off so successfully, particularly in the first half.

As the tale unfolds Chris Whitley gives a rock solid performance as the well-meaning but eccentric and interfering Frank Foster, tragically unaware of his wife’s (Hayley Cawthorne) infidelity with Bob Philips (Giles Conneely).

Gemma Morris is deliciously bawling and base as the wronged-wife Theresa Philips, and Jo Sessions charms as the mousey and unfairly maligned Mary Featherstone, slandered by both her husband (Matthew Pinkerton) and Foster.

Sessions and Pinkerton excel particularly in the second act, where they simultaneously attend two dinner parties, their demeanour and speech swapping instantly between the two with the turn of a head.

The play feels a little dated in places – particularly in its depiction of gender roles – and there are few contemporary references from its debut in 1969 that could have been excised, but overall this is a gentle and enjoyable farce.