Alan Ayckbourn, in Bedroom Farce, has written another in his series of very funny and insightful farces. A play, of course, is intended to be seen in order to be fully appreciated, but, as a playwright myself, I have an interest in reading the scripts.
This one is staged using three sets that appear together: three bedrooms, which allow the action of the interrelated couples to indulge in the farce of the title. However, what could so easily have descended into smut and exploitation of sexual mores, is instead a complex and well-observed comedy about English suburban life. Ayckbourn is a superb recorder of the idiosyncrasies of his family of English characters. He portrays them with love but doesn’t hold back in showing them for what they are. Often silly, sometimes selfish, frequently lacking in understanding, but never stereotypical, boring or trite.
He uses his sets to make points, giving the locations roles that place them as mute characters on stage to comment silently on the peculiarities, peccadillos, personalities and preferences of his flesh and blood characters. Imagination permits the reader to experience the text in much the same way as the theatre-goer might experience the performance. Though this is not to say that talented actors fail to raise more and greater laughs from the audience than the reader can develop from imagination alone.
Should this play be produced on a stage near me, I shall certainly attend and watch as the text is brought to life by performers who will undoubtedly enjoy the experience as much as the audience. And I’d recommend you to do the same. It’s a play full of laughter for the audience and brimming with under-stated and sometimes subtle asides at the characters. Well worth the reader’s and the viewer’s attention.