Tag Archives: Alan Ayckbourn

Ten Times Table


Theatre Royal Windsor & UK Tour

Ten Times Table

Ten Times Table

Theatre Royal Windsor

Reviewed – 27th January 2020



“every character vivid and witty as the play builds to its satisfyingly mad climax”


Sir Alan Ayckbourn is probably England’s best-known living playwright, and almost certainly its most successful. With more than 80 plays to his credit, he’s celebrated for a string of biting comedies that poke enthusiastic fun at the adulterous middle classes. At 80, he’s still writing, but was at his high point in the seventies and eighties, with a record-breaking five plays once running simultaneously in the West End. These days he’s also often the subject of university theses, with some seeing more than sparkling comedy and huge box office success in the darker side of his writing.

‘Ten Times Table’ was written in 1977, after the playwright endured a year of seemingly interminable committee meetings as his Scarborough theatre prepared to move. Yes, at least in the first half, this is ‘a predominantly sedentary farce’ about committee meetings, according to its author. It’s also something of an allegory for the politics of its day, when union activism was just taking off, and Margaret Thatcher was preparing to take power. But don’t be put off! In the hands of this team of seasoned Ayckbourn performers, directed by the excellent Robin Herford, an excellent evening’s entertainment is guaranteed.

The play opens as Robert Daws (Tuppy Glossop in Jeeves & Wooster) enters the darkened ballroom of a tatty three star hotel. He and Deborah Grant (playing his wife) are the mainstays of the play, which has a large cast by Ayckbourn’s standards. As Ray, Daws has a repertoire of funny vocal mannerisms that are just right for a pedantic committee Chairman. With her big hair and bigger speeches, there’s more than a passing resemblance to Margaret Thatcher in Grant’s smart performance as his wife. Her protagonist is a Marxist teacher of modern history who becomes obsessed with bringing to life a working class hero in a historical pageant (an excellent performance by Craig Gazey, Graeme Proctor in ‘Coronation Street’). The rest of the cast are equally strong, with every character vivid and witty as the play builds to its satisfyingly mad climax.

It’s also worth mentioning some satisfying design backing up the performers in this traditional-looking show (Michael Holt, with sound and lighting by Dan Samson and Jason Taylor).

A play about committees and the posturing follies of British political life? In these capable hands we’re guaranteed a good evening that brought appreciative whistles and cheers from a good-natured audience at the start of its short Windsor run.


Reviewed by David Woodward

Photography by Pamela Raith


Ten Times Table

Theatre Royal Windsor until 1st February then UK tour continues


Previously reviewed at this venue:
The Trials Of Oscar Wilde | ★★★★ | March 2019
Octopus Soup! | ★★½ | April 2019
The Mousetrap | ★★★★ | October 2019
The Nutcracker | ★★★★ | November 2019
What’s In A Name? | ★★★★ | November 2019


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Haunting Julia – 2 Stars

Haunting Julia

Haunting Julia

Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch

Reviewed – 3rd November 2018


“a disappointing production, that neither scares nor moves, though Spencer’s performance is the saving grace”


The papers called her ‘Little Miss Mozart’ but twelve years after her death, where she was found having overdosed on sleeping pills at the age of nineteen, Julia’s father Joe, is still looking for answers. He has invited Julia’s last boyfriend, Andy, to the music centre that he has built around Julia’s bedroom, an unaltered shrine to her genius. Joining them is Ken Chase, a local psychic, so he says, though his connection to Julia’s life goes far deeper. It is both a ghost story and a psychological narrative of grief and loss. The weight of creative genius on a person, particularly from such a young age, is interestingly explored and commented upon.

However Haunting Julia isn’t one of Alan Ayckbourn’s best plays and, in this case, it isn’t helped by the overall production. Originally intended by its writer as a ninety minute piece, in longer form it is now a slow journey, repetitive and unengaging. It plods along, pedestrian-like, until the melodramatic ending which elicits more laughter than fear from the audience tonight.

Matthew Spencer delivers a strong and nuanced performance as Andy Rollinson, Julia’s boyfriend at the time, beginning the play as a sceptical non-believer, and ending the play shaken and moved. However he is flanked by two disappointing performances from Sam Cox and Clive Llewellyn. Cox is unconvincing, acting out towards the audience rather than towards his fellow actors, and the emotional complexity of this stifling, grieving father figure is not accessed by his performance. Both Cox and Llewellyn also struggle to deliver the notes of humour that pepper the script and are characteristic of Ayckbourn’s writing, causing the play to drag and stagnate over and over.

The set, designed by Jess Curtis, is functional and competently done, but it isn’t anything awe-inspiring, and the spacing of it contributes to the frequently bizarre staging of the actors by director Lucy Pitman-Wallace, which often makes the interactions between the characters feel unnatural and performative.

This is a disappointing production, that neither scares nor moves, though Spencer’s performance is the saving grace.


Reviewed by Amelia Brown

Photography by Mark Sepple


Haunting Julia

Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch until 17th November


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Rope | ★★★★ | February 2018
The Game of Love and Chai | ★★★ | April 2018
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert | ★★★ | May 2018
Abi | ★★★★ | September 2018
Abigail’s Party | ★★★½ | September 2018
Once | ★★★★★ | October 2018


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