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Review: Communicating Doors, by Alan Ayckbourn, Southwold Summer Theatre, until July 15, then Aldeburgh, July 20-29

PUBLISHED: 18:12 06 July 2017

Melissa Clements as ‘Poopay’ in Communicating Doors, the opening production of Suffolk Summer Theatre. Photo: STEPHEN WOLFENDEN

Melissa Clements as ‘Poopay’ in Communicating Doors, the opening production of Suffolk Summer Theatre. Photo: STEPHEN WOLFENDEN

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Suffolk Summer Theatre kicks off in Southwold with a fast paced and very funny production of Alan Ayckbourn’s 1994 comedy of master criminals, murder and time travel.

It’s 2037 and Poopay, a slightly nervous but spirited and witty dominatrix gets more than she bargained for when she finds herself witnessing the dying confession of corrupt and regretful Reece Wells. His murderous associate Julian, who has seen off two of Reece’s wives, is now after Poopay to silence her too. The cupboard she escapes into transports her back to 2017, where she finds Ruella, wife number 2 on the eve of her own murder.

At its hear, ideas about regret and how people can change underpins this wacky sci-fi plot. Not quite An Inspector Calls, however the resilience, strength and kindness between women and the courage they display in order to take charge of their destiny takes guts.

Ayckbourn heroines are funny, vulnerable and independent, and do not see each other as threats. There is an instant camaraderie between Ruella and Poopay and the rapport between Melissa Clements and Claire Jeater, as they dance in between time spheres and across the generations, beautifully creates the common ground between women that is classic Ayckbourn. Claire Jeater, especially, handles the comedy one liners without losing the warmth and empathy of Ruella. Whilst Melissa Clements develops her characterisation with careful timing throughout.

Toby Cobb’s grey hotel set serves its functional purpose as a frame for the action and the careful use of lighting creates distinctive moments of real tension. Michael Shaw’s menacing, Norman Bates like presence as Julian is actually quite terrifying which makes the play feel quite raw at times, before swinging back to more familiar territory.

This is a great start to the Suffolk Summer Theatre season and is recommended.

Jackie Montague

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