WOMAN IN MIND
By Alan Ayckbourn
Date; Sunday 14th July 1.00 pm
At Chorley Little Theatre
Production to be performed on 14th – 19th October
Directed by Dave Reid, produced by Mark Jones.
“Woman in Mind” is one of Ayckbourn’s darker comedies, dealing with the gradual mental collapse of a woman, Susan – a collapse which appears to be the result from being knocked unconscious by a garden rake. Starved of affection, companionship and love by an appallingly boring husband and a priggish son who’s ashamed of her, Susan conjures up an imaginary and ideal family who come to her in her idyllic (and also imaginary) garden. But gradually she begins to lose control over these idealized people and their visitations, until finally she breaks down completely in a nightmarish and climactic fantasy involving her real and imaginary families.
“… dazzling … provocative … a climactic Lewis Carroll-style nightmare which is both hilariously inventive and demonic…” (The Listener)
The play is written totally from the point of view of the central character – Susan. As such, it is important to note that, in places, the characters are portrayed not necessarily as they really are, but as Susan sees them.
Please note: the part of Susan has been cast at a previous audition
BILL: (age 30+) A pleasant, rather nervous GP. Clumsy, socially awkward, easily embarrassed and secretly in love with Susan. Unhappily married with 2 daughters at university. A classic Ayckbourn male character – well-meaning and caring but totally ineffective at almost everything, from opening his medical case to avoiding an ornamental frog in the garden. His hobbies include reading science fiction and macramé – the latter was introduced to him by his wife as a substitute for anything resembling a marriage. “She’s even let me have the spare bedroom.” The role is to be played totally straight and understated.
GERALD: (age 40+) Susan’s ‘real’ husband. The Reverend Gerald Gannet is incredibly nice, calm, polite and, quite possibly, the most boring man in the world. When not tending his flock he is totally absorbed with writing his ‘History of the parish since 1386’. Totally calm and unflappable, he is (or appears to be) totally unaware of his wife’s unhappiness and the lack of love in their relationship. They no longer share the marital bed and when confronted about the lack of intimacy in their relationship his response is: “I thought that when a woman got to our age, she more or less switched off.” A great comic role, but again to be played with total sincerity and realism.
MURIEL: (age 40+) Susan’s sister-in-law. A walking catastrophe. Everything she touches turns to disaster. Muriel is haunted by her late husband, Harry, who she prays will somehow return to her. Fussy, obtrusive, totally self-absorbed and completely incompetent in the kitchen. Think Hilda Ogden meets Mrs Overall. Unlike the other ‘real’ characters she is to be played outrageously and purely for comic effect. When other characters suffer we want the audience to empathise with them – but when Muriel has a crisis we need the audience to laugh out loud and enjoy her pain.
ANDY: (30+) Susan’s imaginary husband. Easy-going, charming, dressed in a white suit. A great cook, good at sports, rich and totally, utterly and eternally passionate about Susan. In other words, her ideal (dream) husband. He is her creation and everything she expects (and longs for) a husband to be. However, as she loses control of her imaginary world, he is capable of menace and threat. He is confident and totally in control in all situations. A great character journey, moving from charm to threat with ease.
LUCY: (20+) Susan’s imaginary daughter. Easy-going, charming, tending to wear fresh summery dresses. Totally devoted to Susan, easily pleased and excited but also easily hurt and upset. The type of daughter that relies totally on her mother and, therefore, exactly the sort of child that Susan craves. Innocent, child-like, wants to be the fairy at the top of the Xmas tree, but emotionally sensitive and when her mother turns against her, we need to feel her pain.
TONY: (20+) Susan’s imaginary younger brother. Easy-going and charming. Interested in all sports, hunting and champagne. Devoted to Susan and fiercely protective. On the surface a cheerful, loving brother without a care in the world, but possessing a sinister quality that makes him unpredictable and dangerous.
(note: All 3 imaginary characters are idealized figures and are to be played in a heightened style without going over the top)
RICK: (20+) Susan’s real son. (Apart from a brief entrance at the end of Act One, only appears in the second half) Rather shy and awkward. Has had a difficult upbringing, which resulted in him joining a religious cult in Hemel Hempstead. Has not seen or spoken to his parents in years and only returns to the family home in order to sell the furniture in his room. In Susan’s mind he is a prig and an uncaring monster who is ashamed of her. In reality he is an ordinary, decent young man who is ashamed of her. He wants to make amends with his parents, but events prevent him from doing so. To be played straight and empathetically.
Everything about this production is based around the character of Susan – everything that happens is what she sees and hears, whether it is real or imaginary.
Staging will be simplistic (the whole play is set in a suburban garden,) although the lighting will be quite complex, especially when the real and fantasy worlds collide.
However, as with all Ayckbourn plays, the emphasis will be on the acting, the timing of the delivery and the emotional communication.
You will be asked present a monologue (copies available in advance) and may, possibly, also be asked to take part in a duologue.