Every year we enjoy the premiere of Alan Ayckbourn's latest play at the Old Laundry in Bowness-on-Windermere. Last year, this clearly wasn't possible, and this year, the Old Laundry is closed, so the play premiered only at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough.
We decided we didn't want to travel to Scarborough, and so were delighted when we discovered that we could stream the performance straight into our living room. How fabulous! One of the unexpected benefits of COVID-19 has been the number of theatres which are now live streaming plays and events.
We invited friends, who love Ayckbourn's plays, to join us, and together we thoroughly enjoyed his 85th play: The Girl Next Door. A few glasses of wine were consumed as well!
The play was a huge success and so relevant for our current situation. Ayckbourn compares two national crisis: COVID-19 and World War 2. In the play it is the height of the pandemic and when Rob, an out-of-work actor, looks over the garden hedge, he sees Lily, a 1940s mother of two whose husband is serving in North Africa. In a very clever and playful script, the 82-year-old dramatist juxtaposes the rationing and blackouts of wartime London with the Zoom calls and social distancing of today.
Ayckbourn's writing was as insightful as ever. He certainly put some of our current privations into perspective. Our lockdown, whilst inconvenient, doesn't have the daily danger and misery of 1940's England. The excellent cast made the unlikely premise seem totally credible.
I love time slip novels and films, so this play really hit the spot for me. We all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and decided that theatre night would become a regular occurrence.