Snake in the Grass, at the Print Room

Thursday, 24 February, 2011

Darker Ayckbourn

Run now extended to 12 March

The Print Room may be a small venue, but its production values certainly aren’t, at least judging solely on the basis of their current production, the rarely seen Snake in the Grass, by Alan Ayckbourn.

Set on a long unused tennis court, the production moves from broad daylight to the dark of night reflecting the twists and turns of a convoluted plot. What exactly those twists and turns entail, is something you should really find out for yourself, but the repercussions from the death of the domineering father of sisters Miriam (Sarah Woodward) and Annabel (Susan Wooldridge) are both alarming and – because Ayckbourn will always be Ayckbourn – nervously funny at the same time.

Designed by William Dudley, that set is magnificent, and the venue being what it is, the audience almost sits on it, and everything that happens happens within touching distance. There are lovely sound effects too, from Neil Alexander. (The very important well does sound very deep indeed, and the random twangs from the wire netting are suitably disturbing).

Both sisters have suffered at the hands of their now deceased father. Miriam has had to bear the brunt of his long and difficult old age. Annabel fled to Australia where her star – as successful businesswoman – has waxed and waned. Now, with the estate left to Annabel, rather than her sister, there is fence-mending to be done and the two women’s difficult past to review.

It is an intense and sometimes harrowing history but played with a lot of poise by the two women and the feisty and down to earth Alice (Mossie Smith), their father’s ex-nurse, sacked for incompetence, but with a darker tale to tell than the sisters want heard.

Ayckbourn’s view was that into the darkest plot must come laughter, and while this isn’t quite in the class of shaken up predilections as Joe Orton, it isn’t far off, and laughter comes with an acute awareness that probably we shouldn’t be quite so amused.

The production now runs until 12th March because of its well deserved success with audiences. For those who don’t know the Print Room it is a very welcoming venue in Westbourne Grove, with a very good pub and restaurant handily opposite!

Cast:  Susan Wooldridge – Annabel; Sarah Woodward – Miriam; Mossie Smith – Alice

Directed by Lucy Bailey; Designed by William Dudley; Lighting Design by Richard Howell; Sound Design by Neil Alexander

reviewed 22 February 2011

(c) michael spring 2011


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