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Criterion Theatre
Communicating Doors (2017)
Written by Alan Ayckbourn
Sat 24th June to Sat 1st July

A frenetically funny cross between 'Back to the Future' and 'Psycho' with the most memorable balcony scene since 'Romeo & Juliet'

Director – John Ruscoe
Production Photos
Poopay – Georgia Kelly
Reece – Alan Fenn
Ruella – Cathryn Bowler
Harold – Peter Meredith
Jessica – Karen Evans
Julian – Neil Vallance
Stage Manager – Stella Gabriel
Assistant Stage Manager – Nikki Gabriel
Prompt – Nikki Gabriel
Set Designer – Simon Sharpe
Props & Set Dressing i/c – Les Rahilly
Wardrobe i/c – Maureen Liggins
Sound Design – Dave Cornish
Lighting Design – Karl Stafford
Artwork Design – Paul Chokran
Wardrobe – Mary Ball
Wardrobe – Nicole Firth
Props & Set Dressing – Tony Martin
Props & Set Dressing – Lilian Sykes
Props & Set Dressing – Nancy Silvester
Props & Set Dressing – Lois Williams
Set Build i/c – Simon Sharpe
Set Build – Terry Cornwall
Set Build – Frances Dixon
Set Build – Jenson Jones
Set Build – Lukasz Nowacki
Set Build – Terry Rahilly
Set Build – Mandy Sutton
Set Build – Mike Waterson
Set Painting – Paul Chokkran
Set Painting – Pam Coleman
Set Painting – Pete Horton
Set Painting – Judy Talbot
Set Painting – Emma Withers
Sound Operation – Dave Cornish
Sound Operation – Ellen Sharkey
Lighting Operation – Karl Stafford
Lighting Operation – Paul Harrison
Prompt – Helen Withers
The Play

A dazzling comedy thriller directed by John Ruscoe, this play cleverly combines elements of farce, psycho-drama and sex-comedies. Always on the lookout for a fresh challenge, John chose this play because he was intrigued by its highly unusual plot which revolves around a murder mystery and the possibility of time travel. The notion of being able to travel through time to create an alternative future by changing the past has been the starting point for many exciting science fiction dramas. In this ingenious play, the prolific and ever-inventive playwright Alan Ayckbourn concocts his own unique recipe by combining comedic flair and a talent for crime thriller with just a pinch of psycho-drama thrown in for good measure. If all this sounds a heady mix, it is. But have no fear: this suspense-filled and entertaining piece is guaranteed to hold your attention and keep you guessing right until the final moments.


Press comment:  


"Dazzlingly ingenious . . . . it's 'Back to the Future' with sex and violence" The Guardian. 


"A time - travelling thriller"  . . . " a nerve-jangling cocktail that combines elements of 'Rear Window', 'No Sex Please We're British' and 'Doctor Who' " The Daily Telegraph 


"Comic gold" The Stage 




"Alan Ayckbourn has long been the master of the dark farce...."


"...not the easiest of Ayckbourn's many plays. But the Criterion rises to the challenge, as usual...."


"Karen Evans as Reece’s first wife Jessica and Cathryn Bowler as her replacement, Ruella, gleefully throw themselves into a balcony scene that triumphantly transforms tragedy into farce.   As the darkness recedes, laughter levels surge."


"Neil Vallance plays Julian with a world-weariness undercut by a menacing vindictiveness.   And Georgia Kelly touchingly captures not only Poopay’s vulnerability but also her instinct for survival against the odds."   


For the full article, click on 'The Review' at the top of this page above the production photographs.  




COMMUNICATING DOORS by Alan Ayckbourn: The Review

by Chris Arnot 

There are doors everywhere. Five are obvious. Then you notice the bathroom cabinet. Oh yes, and the glass door leading to a balcony off the hotel room where the action is set over a period of 40 years.  One of those doors revolves at regular intervals to transport two of the women in the cast through a time-space continuum spanning the years between 2021, 2001 and 1981.  As a result, yet more doors spin into view.  

Doors have been a time-honoured prop of theatrical farce and Alan Ayckbourn has long been a master of the dark farce.  

It’s fair to say that darkness is more evident than rib-tickling humour in the first half.  “Norra lorra laughs,” as Cilla might have put it – although I rather liked the fact that dodgy businessman Reece Wells keeps the confession that he has hired a hooker to sign hidden in the bidet. “Who the hell uses these things?” he shrugs.

The hooker in question is a somewhat vulnerable dominatrix who goes under the name of Poopay.    “You’ve been a very naughty boy.” Is her standard line of introduction.  In this case, however, “naughty” is something of an understatement.   Reece has apparently had two of his wives murdered.  One of them, it seems, was propelled through that glass door and shoved off the balcony by his sinister henchman Julian Goodman – an inappropriate surname if ever there was one.

Neil Vallance plays Julian with a world-weariness undercut by a menacing vindictiveness.   And Georgia Kelly touchingly captures not only Poopay’s vulnerability but also her instinct for survival against the odds.   Somehow she slips out of Julian’s clutches and spins through the revolving door, travelling back in time to warn the wives of their impending fate.

Time travel enables Ayckbourn to speculate on the possibilities of human beings making different life choices given a second chance.  And, as so often with him, it is the female characters who show the way in that regard. 

There are far more laughs in the second half, helped by Pete Meredith’s cameo performance as the hotel security man. Having aged 20 years at one point, he appears sporting a ‘comb-over’ worthy of Bobby Charlton in his prime.  

Karen Evans as Reece’s first wife Jessica and Cathryn Bowler as her replacement, Ruella, gleefully throw themselves into a balcony scene that triumphantly transforms tragedy into farce.   As the darkness recedes, laughter levels surge.

This is not the easiest of Ayckbourn’s many plays.  But the Criterion rises to the challenge, as usual, under John Ruscoe’s direction and a clever set design by Simon Sharpe.  Doors galore, of course, with the possibilities that they offer to walk through the right one at the right time.     

  • 'Communicating Doors' by Alan Ayckbourn is at the Criterion until Saturday July 1.



A Triumph in Time

By Nick Le Mesurier

Time, they say, changes everything. It certainly does in 'Communicating Doors', a mind-bendingly tricky farce-cum-thriller-cum comedy by Alan Ayckbourn.

To have characters go on and off stage through various doors only to discover something on the other side is a stock theatrical device, but here they manage to slip back and forth in time too. It’s never made clear quite how they should be able to do this. No visible space time continuum exists here. Instead we have a single hotel room, which never changes its furniture even though we are in it in 1981, 2001 and 2021.

With a premise like that the play needs a compelling production to keep us from falling off the time warp. And it gets it. This is a virtuoso piece, and the Criterion crew are on top form to deliver it.

Georgia Kelly is Poopay, a professional dominatrix in a PVC dress, a tart with a heart and a scream to scare the living daylights out of you. She arrives, she thinks, to give dodgy millionaire Reece (Alan Fenn) a once-over. Reece, however isn’t after a bit of hanky spanky but wants a witness to a confession he’s written, exposing his ill-starred deeds throughout his long, and now shortly to end, life. Why he should hire a prostitute to do this is anyone’s guess, but never mind. The introduction sends her off on a dizzying journey through time, facilitated by a revolving door, stage left. On the way she meets Ruella (Cathryn Bowler), Reece’s second wife, in 2001, whom she warns is about to be murdered by Julian (Neil Vallance), Reece’s long time business partner, and a worse geezer than even Reece himself. Ruella’s the clever one, who figures out how things are, and steps into the time warp with a mission to avert the inevitable. Further slippages introduce her and Poopay to Jessica (Karen Evans), Reece’s first wife, in 1981, who likewise is warned of her forthcoming demise some seven years hence.

Are you with me? Never mind if you’re not, because this roller coaster plot isn’t really the point. All that matters is that history can be changed: good can triumph over evil. This is a wonderfully warm production that really draws on the skills of the whole crew. Georgia Kelly is fast becoming one of my favourite actresses. She was stunning as Carol in 'Road' and charming as Mina in 'Skellig'. Here she’s the centre-piece of the play: angry, confused, frightened, and affectionate, all in the blink of an eye. Cathryn Bowler comes into her own as she and Poopay develop a solid partnership to see off the wicked old Reece. Karen Evans is clever as the not so dim Jessica, who rounds off the plot. Neil Vallance is truly sinister as the mysterious Julian, a nasty piece of work with a strange affection for his boss; and Pete Meredith is hilarious as the bemused security guard Harold, way out of his depth in a plot that would take the powers of The Doctor to understand, let alone solve.

Thank goodness for girl power. I’m still trying to figure out how Poopay became Reece’s daughter in the final, touching scene. But, do you know: I don’t care. Like time, it probably makes sense somewhere. Meanwhile I’m up for the journey, and having a lot of fun along the way.

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