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Having previously watched “Garden” with great pleasure, it was an invitation to the “House” this time and once again this excellent production of one cast, two stages and two audiences worked it technical and dramatic magic with great ease.

The Bistro of The Mission Theatre has been transformed into the lounge of the Manor House hosting the garden fete, whilst the main stage area is the “Garden” – it is in the lounge that the missing pieces of the “Garden” are put in place and the wait is fully justified.

Again the timing of movement between the performance areas is well managed and allows for some great moments of drama. The themes of longing and dissatisfaction remain but somehow this script grasps a real sensitivity, particularly in the very capable hands of Matt Bromwich as Jake Mace the local hack in pursuit of a story and the attractive if petulant Sally Platt, created with confidence by Lydia Cook.

The company are excellent, Tim Evans (Teddy Platt) fights to regain some family honour as an MP and fails even by the terrible standards set with insidious confidence by Nicky Wilkins (Gavin Ryng- Mayne.) Whose lecherous intentions are tempted by a great cameo from Hayley Fitton – Cook as Pearl Truce.

Kay Francksen (Trish Platt) captures the dutiful yet disillusioned wife with style whilst Alison Paine (Lucille Cadeau) is the French film star en route to a clinic for alcohol addiction; in true Ayckbourn mode much is said but so few truly listen, revealing huge gaps in lives and relationships that need a great deal of healing.

This double bill is a great choice to reflect the quality of production values of Next Stage. Ann Garner directs in their 20th Anniversary Year and Alan Ayckbourn visits on Saturday. An extraordinary achievement in anyone’s book; if there is a ticket left in the house or the garden grab it, you will not be disappointed.

Petra Schofield

Read Petra’s review of Garden here: https://theatrebath.co.uk/blog/review-garden-alan-ayckbourn-the-mission-theatre/