There is a little gift for fans of Alan Ayckbourn waiting to be unwrapped at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough.
No Knowing is not the biggest of presents – it’s only 90 minutes long and that includes the interval – but good things come in small packages.
The play opens at a party to celebrate the 40th wedding anniversary of Arthur and Elspeth – she makes a speech on the nature of marriage for a woman. Quick change and the couple are sitting at the kitchen table eating tea – with nothing to say to each other.
Then their son arrives with a secret about his mum to impart to his dad. The second half opens with Arthur giving a speech at the party – about how he knows his wife better than anyone (and we now know the irony of the speech) and love and marriage. Quick change and the couple are, again, sitting at the kitchen table with nothing to say to each other. This time enter the daughter with a secret about her dad to impart to her mum.
It is simple in device and construction but complicated in theme and emotion. The dialogue is dazzlingly good and the observations on marriage and family relationships by turns heartbreakingly and side-splittingly true. Starring Russell Dixon and Jacqueline King as Arthur and Elspeth, with Bill Champion and Laura Matthews as their son and daughter, the performances are brilliant all round.
To December 24.