Alan Ayckbourn is famed for his naturalistic dramas centred around the small discussions and disagreements between couples. Confusions is no different. Offering us insights into the lives of ordinary people through three episodes, this condensed performance of Ayckbourn’s one-act play was entertaining but lacked the energy required by the original script.
Corpus Christi Owlets’ interpretation of Confusions certainly delivered on the light-hearted yet darker tendencies of Ayckbourn’s plays, with great comic moments delivered by Sunny Ramamurthy (who plays the rather flamboyant Waiter in the third play) and Mary Lobo (Emma Pearce, who portrays a woman enraged by her husband’s infidelity).
Each play in the Confusions collection tries to give us an insight into the characters on stage through their ordinary interactions – there is no melodrama. The first play revolves around Lucy (played well by Zoe Kuyken) and her long-suffering neighbours. By offering them “choccy bickies” and glasses of milk, she treats the characters like children. Accordingly, the audience sees the neighbours bicker like toddlers. In the second play, we are confronted by a rather lecherous Harry (Lucy’s husband from the first play, played excellently by Josh Fine) who tries anything he can to get an attractive woman in a hotel bar to sleep with him. This version offered by Corpus Christi Owlets climaxes in the third section, which revolves around marital infidelity. This is revealed in a painstakingly slow process, over dinner in a restaurant.
Jake Rich and Caleb Barron delivered good direction. Confusions is signature Ayckbourn, frequently demanding the execution of the often-difficult move of split scenes with dialogue that alternates between the separate groups. Ramamurthy delivered a fine performance, delivering jokes with subtlety, and possessed a confidence that proved crucial in moving between the groups at the beginning and end of the dialogue. However, the third act required more pace in its delivery in order to maintain the fluency and the energy of Ayckbourn’s script. Lobo deserves praise for a hilarious performance of palpably incandescent rage towards her husband (played by Hugo Cook) building through the episode.
This production would have benefited from more sound effects and music to offset the silences between changes of scene, particularly during the third play. There were notable silences where the actors were just miming their private dinner-table discussions. On the other hand, the physical transitions between the plays were brilliantly executed, with the actors moving the scenery themselves through choreographed movements to music.
Watching Confusions was a light-hearted way to spend a Tuesday evening, but something about the constant near-corpsing of the actors tells me that there were laughs the audience was missing out on. More energetic performances were needed to do justice to the subtlety of Alan Ayckbourn’s comedy. Nevertheless, this was a fine performance of Confusions.