My Wonderful Day by Alan Ayckbourn
Review by Gaz
The premise of the play is a child’s view of an adult world, where she is an often ignored bystander to events. Within this, Winnie, the child, is writing an essay for her homework. It is a piece called My Wonderful Day. Because of this, we see her madly scribbling away whenever anything happens. A LOT happens!
Winnie’s mother, Laverne, is a cleaner and is heavily pregnant (about 10 days to go, she says). On this particular day, she brings Winnie to work with her on the condition she just sits quietly and doesn’t get in anyone’s way. At the same time, the people who live in the house are going through something of a crisis. Naturally this is all grist to Winnie’s mill as she takes it all down with gusto.
One of the funniest devices I’ve come across for a long time is the fact that Winnie and her mother have this deal. They are learning French together and, in order to achieve fluency for when they jet off to Martinique in the future of Laverne’s dreams, they speak only in French on Tuesdays. This means that the visitors to the house, and the owner, are convinced she only speaks French. This device has two functions. It’s clearly hilarious from the audience’s point of view because we know the truth and it gives the adults more freedom to speak in front of Winnie. It’s also just funny!
Anyway, the production was excellent, as most Ayckbourn productions are but the absolute stand-out is Winnie herself. She is 9 years old and played by Ayesha Antoine who is 28! And utterly convincing. I didn’t know how old she was during the play and was convinced she was a little girl with exceptional talent. Instead, it seems, she is a fully grown woman with exceptional talent. The play depends on you believing she is a little girl and it worked completely. A wonderful performance that I’m very glad I saw.
Of the rest of the cast, the mother (Petra Letang) and Paula (Alexandra Mathie) were both excellent. Paul Kemp, as Josh was a typical Ayckbourn downcast, set upon, Tom type character and managed it very well. Sadly, the other two didn’t particularly thrill me. I figured I could have managed the male lead a lot better and the young, bulimic girl just grated on my nerves. This sort of thing is fine in small doses but she just kept it up. When Paula threw her out, I felt like cheering.
So, all round, a wonderful night out. Plenty of laughs, some great performances and we have discovered some excellent seats which we will be trying for each time we go in the future.
As a side note, we have a theory that for a play to be good, it needs a cast which features a majority of actors who have appeared in The Bill. I have never kept particularly good records of this (sad given how much theatre we used to see) but I shall attempt to record the facts as we attend other performances. For this there were six actors and five of them have appeared in The Bill. I am calling this The Bill Factor. Therefore, My Wonderful Day has a Bill Factor of 6/5.