Review
Story added:  5:00pm Wed Feb 6, 2013
Jealousy brings downfall of long-term friends
Saturday 26th January, 2013 - Nottingham Playhouse
Nottingham Playhouse is celebrating its 50th anniversary and the first production of the milestone year — Alan Ayckbourn’s Joking Apart — is simply world-class.

It is the first time in 12 years the theatre has staged an Ayckbourn play, and it could not come soon enough.

The black comedy centres around a successful couple, Anthea and Richard, over a 12-year period, and their jealous friends who are brought down one by one by envy.

It is set in the couple’s garden where there is a tennis court, summer house, tree with swing and a large lawn, wonderfully designed by Tom Rogers.

Directed by Lucy Pitman-Wallace at a steady pace, it starts on Bonfire Night in 1966. Emily Pithon plays Anthea, a bubbly loved-up young woman who has two children from a failed marriage, but is happy to live in sin with her new partner, Richard.

Played by a tall, dark and handsome Robert Curtis, he is a successful businessman who wants for nothing.

Richard and Anthea spoil their children and are always willing to help their friends and neighbours.

Enter friends Sven and Olive, wonderfully played by Thorston Manderlay and Natasha Byrne.

Sven is jealous that Richard, his business partner, seems to be able to run things better than him. Olive is jealous that Anthea can eat anything and stay thin, while she gets fatter and fatter.

Anthea’s friend Brian (Will Barton) cannot move on with his life as he carries a torch for her. Despite having a string of girlfriends — Melody, Mandy and Mo, played by Katie Brayben — nothing ever happens and they dump him.

The last couple are Hugh and Louise, a dishy vicar and his highly-strung wife. Hugh is played in a dithering manner by Edward Harrison. His life goes from bad to worse when he realises he is in love with Anthea.

Meanwhile Louise, excellently played by Sally Scott, suffers a mental breakdown as she finds it hard to cope with having a son who does not speak to her and a husband who wants to spend all his time with the neighbours instead of her.

Although the comedy is not full of belly laughs, it is a fine observational piece about life and relationships.

It is on until February 16 and is well worth seeing — DAB.
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