Intimate Exchanges at Ilkley Playhouse

AS this September has commenced rather damp and chill, there is a certain pleasure to be had from being invited into a sunny garden, as revealed when the curtains draw back on Alan Ayckbourn’s Intimate Exchanges at Ilkley Playhouse this week. The bright and cheerful set, designed by David Keighley, is the backdrop against which the relationships and dramas unfold.

With only two in the cast it could be anticipated that the stage will feel a little thin – but this is far from the truth. Smartly directed by Jamesine Cundell Walker, who has clearly determined to draw out all the comedy value of this piece, actors Andy Price and Anna Riley embody a range of characters so cleverly that it is hard to imagine there is not a bigger cast.

The play concerns life in a struggling minor private school: there is a headmaster failing to keep his inner demons at bay, his disappointed wife and their staff – a local girl who helps in the house and a groundsman cum gardener who, whilst ambitious, is not up to the job.

Through a series of quick changes Andy Price and Anna Riley play all of these characters, each one with distinct personalities, ways of moving and accents – the stage is never left empty.

There is tangible chemistry between these two and whether they are playing the head teacher and his wife, the gardener and housekeeper, an old man and his prospective daughter in law or any other combination of the same, the relationships are clear.

For these two actors having previously appeared together in Educating Rita, it is interesting similar themes appear in this play.

There are real laugh out loud moments in this play driven by both the writing and the performances: this being Ayckbourn there is also poignancy and it is this, of course, which heightens the humour.

It is the perfect antidote to that ‘back to work’ feeling – don’t miss it. It runs until 21st September.

- Becky Carter