Digging beneath the surface of a gentleman’s game

Review of A Cricket Match at the Devonshire Park Theatre by Laura Sonier.

WITH its pristine whites, religiously observed tea breaks and general sense of fair play, cricket is generally perceived as being a solid, sensible game.

But beneath the surface, are there seething passions just waiting to erupt?

There certainly are in A Cricket Match, one of Alan Ayckbourn’s Intimate Exchanges series of eight plays dealing with the same characters.

Of course, Ayckbourn’s plays do ‘seething’ in a typically understated English way – with self-deprecating humour, plenty of shuffling and stammering and a mild-mannered punch-up in a cricket pavilion.

Celia, a frustrated headmaster’s wife, plans to leave her drunkard husband Toby.

Toby’s best friend Miles turns up at her house to try and persuade her to stay – but will he succeed? Or will the couple have other plans?

And where will Rowena, the flamboyant wife of Miles who is given to practical jokes and affairs, fit in?

All eight characters are played by just two actors – Stephen Beckett and Jenny Funnell – and as with all of Ayckbourn’s plays, there is plenty of character observation and plenty of humour.

There were definite langours in the first half – leaving audience members who are not a fan of the eponymous game possibly wondering if the play was going to last as long as a match. Without a tea break.

However, action picked up in the second half with Jenny Funnell giving an amusing performance as the reckless Rowena.

The couple lacked the chemistry that would have made the first half, with Miles and Celia opening up to each other, more entertaining and Stephen Beckett (admittedly, as a man, given a harder job without being able to rely so heavily on wigs, costumes and make-up to mark the character changes) wasn’t as convincing tackling his four characters as his colleague.

Although this performance didn’t full bowl this maiden over, any fans of Ayckbourn will find plenty to enjoy.

A Cricket Match is on unilt Saturday night, with evening performances at 7.45pm and a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm.

Call 412000 for tickets.