“If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction”
The play takes its title from a line in that play of reversals and wish fulfilment, Twelfth Night. In Improbable Fiction, Ayckbourn has devised a plot as insanely topsy-turvy as Shakespeare's.
Improbable Fiction is Alan Ayckbourn's 69th play, wherein everyone in the Pendon Writers' Circle, a self-help group for the creatively stalled and artistically deluded, is having collective writers' block. However, the presence of a rather ordinary young girl unleashes their imaginations - with surprising results!
Improbable Fiction sends up Dorothy L Sayers, Jane Austen and The X-Files - with a selection of spoof sci-fi characters, a detective that any crime writer would be proud to disown, a damsel in distress, and the abduction of his mother by aliens, the storylines overlap and interweave around a bemused Arnold.
Report by: Peter Parlour (NODA Rep. District 6) on 9 November 2013 (edited for inaccuracies) Venue: Georgian Theatre Royal, Richmond Director: Mike Walker
Alan Ayckbourn’s plays have always been notable for his experimentation with staging and dramatic structure, and ‘Improbable Fiction’ is no different. In the first act, in Arnold Hassock’s living room, the Writer’s Circle are meeting to talk about their latest endeavours. They all sit round for the entire act talking about what they should be writing about. Arnold writes about instruction manuals, Jess Bales about Historical Romances, journalist Vivvi Dickins about Crime Stories. Grace Sims brought several illustrations for a children’s book, much to the amusement of the group, while Clem Pepp wrote about alien abduction and Brevis Winterton wrote musical scores. Ilsa Wolby was only there to make to tea, and to keep an eye on Arnold’s mother, who was upstairs and never appeared. I don’t think any of them did much writing.
This was a very interesting play as when we got to the second act it became a Melodrama, as they tried to solve the murder of Arnold’s mother which was really hilarious. Everybody, other than Arnold, took several parts. We had a very strict Doctor, several appearances of what I would call the Ghostbusters, and a very demanding Police Inspector. Poor Ilsa was the prime suspect. Arnold just couldn’t work out what was happening with the electric lights going out now and again. This was an excellent play, very well acted by everyone. Arnold was well played by Martin Ash who was quite confused throughout. Moira Mason played Jess Bales and several parts in the second act very well indeed. Ruth Shaw played Vivvi, with her very infectious laugh, and was part of the Ghostbusters. Max Walker excelled as Clem, particularly in the second act. Norma Rogers played Grace very well indeed, especially in the second act act with several parts. Alice Johnson played Ilsa who, poor lass, didn’t know where she was. David Curtis was outstanding as Brevis from his first entrance, which was quite strong. He played the Doctor in the second act, and was excellent as the leader of what I call the Ghostbusters.
Mike Walker did an excellent job in directing this very tricky play. With such an experienced cast, I have no doubt his job was made a little easier, but with the quick changes they had to concentrate all the time. A very unusual play, quite different, but an excellent evening’s entertainment. Very well done Richmond.