Relatively Speaking – Antony Eden as Greg and Olivia Le Andersen as Ginny – Credit © Tristram Kenton

Review: Relatively Speaking, Theatre Royal Bath. 16 Jan 2023

Ten bob notes, bus conductors and posters of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Robin Herford’s sparkling production of Relatively Speaking takes us out of the Cost-of-Living Crisis into the decade of 60’s permissiveness and a time when life was er… not simpler… but rather more complicated.

It was Alan Ayckbourn’s first hit and with its plot twists and misunderstandings it still keeps the laughs coming as the characters all speak at cross purposes. Greg thinks Ginny is screwing around, Philip believes Greg is having an affair with his wife Sheila, Ginny wants to finish with Philip and marry Greg – and as for Sheila – well she is simply confused – until a pair of tell-tale slippers turn up on her patio. Refreshingly, it’s a narrative driven by a woman and turns the misogyny of the time on its head.

Relatively Speaking – Steven Pacey as Philip – Photo credit © Tristram Kenton

Alan Ayckbourn’s 1967 play Relatively Speaking is one of the 20th century’s great British farces. OK the first few minutes seemed a bit flat, but it was freezing outside, and it was the first night. A long wait for a taxi, a mystery pair of slippers and Ginny’s unhurriedly getting dressed sequence moved the story to the next scene: Greg’s quest to meet Ginny’s parents. With that very British attribute of not wanting to take offence or ask a direct question the story of Ginny and Philip’s relationship quickly unravels.

Marital infidelity real or imagined, young love – however blind, the cynical sexual imbalance in power relationships and that old fashioned phrase: familiarity breeds contempt – Relatively Speaking has been a hit for decades with its complex plot, breezy dialogue and familiar domestic settings. And for the most part the near full house lapped it up as a brilliant Liza Goddard as Sheila finally clicked as to chaos taking place on her patio.

Relatively Speaking – Liza Goddard as Sheila and Antony Eden as Greg – Credit © Tristram Kenton

Steven Pacey as Philip brought the drama to life with his angry and manic obsession over a lost garden hoe – and of his horror that his affair was about to be revealed. Naïve (and frankly dim) Greg played by Antony Eden had a touch of the modern stand-up comic about him while delivering his lines as he repeatedly failed to see what was going on in plain sight. Manipulative Ginny (Olivia Le Anderson) was the slick accustomed serial liar as she slipped on her stockings without a hitch, switched from lover to daughter and back to fiancée – all with a winsome half smile as the evil angel of deception.

Relatively Speaking – Olivia Le Andersen as Ginny – Photo credit © Tristram Kenton

The pristine home of Philip and Sheila was more 1980s Bradley Stoke rather than a wisteria covered detached home built after the war but no matter. Greg’s flat was recognisably set in the era of The Summer of Love and when Jimmie Rodger’s hit song English Country Garden was still played on The BBC Light Programme. Hugely enjoyable and excruciatingly funny this production of Relatively Speaking should be compulsory viewing for anyone from abroad planning to visit England on a mission to discover our national character.

Harry Mottram

Relatively Speaking runs to Saturday, 21st January, 2023 at the Theatre Royal Bath.

Tickets and information at

Relatively Speaking is a Theatre Royal Bath Production

The play then tours:

Tue 24 Jan – Sat 28 Jan 2023 Cheltenham Everyman

Tue 31 Jan – Sat 04 Feb 2023 His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen

Tue 7 Feb – Sat 11 February 2023 Cambridge Arts Theatre

Tue 14 Feb – Sat 18 Feb 2023 Eastbourne, Devonshire Park Theatre

Tue 21 Feb – Sat 25 Feb 2023 Yvonne Arnaud, Guildford

Tue 7 – Sat 11 March 2023 Malvern Theatre

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