Alan Ayckbourn’s new play Hero’s Welcome review

Alan Ayckbourn’s new play Hero’s Welcome is a humorous yet serious production that will make you think about past relations and romances.

Director: Alan Ayckbourn

Writer: Alan Ayckbourn

Starring: Stephen Billington, Elizabeth Boag, Russell Dixo, Terenia Edwards, Emma Manton, Richard Stacey

Running: September 4 – October 3

The play captures a town’s reaction to Murray (Richard Stacey) returning from the war with his new wife Madrababacascabuna, or Baba (Terenia Edwards) and receiving a title of town hero.

As the play unfold, it becomes clear that Murray’s return has impacted old friends and romances including the Mayor of the town, Alice (Elizabeth Boag).

As memories begin to be remembered between the characters, jealousy and envy become the catalyst for the rest of the events that unfold.

Whilst waiting for the production to start in The Round at The Stephen Joseph Theatre, the set was the first thing to capture the eye of the audience.

The small stage was split into three different sections each showing a room in separate buildings. This clever use of space and design is particularly influential as the play progresses.

Each section of the set indicates the different characters’ homes and with the help of the lighting by Jason Taylor, the audience were able to fully understand which section was for which character.

The play starts with an interview with Murray with BBC Look North. As it continues, it became apparent that it was the real voices of Harry Gration and Amy Garcia from the team. This just reinforces Ayckbourn’s connections as a renowned playwright.

As the production progresses, it keeps the audience thinking that it would that a certain direction but it would go a different route and always keeps a humorous undertone throughout the entire production.

This happened more than once and keeps you on your toes about what will happen next.

There was a reference to a building being demolished in the town and this theme can be seen to relate to the Scarborough community with the Scarborough Borough Council wanting to demolish the beloved Futurist Theatre that has hosted many different plays in its run. This theme of demolition swiftly disappears as it came.

The narrative is slightly complicated that does warrant focus throughout and as the play continued there are some scenes that are predictable and events take place that aren’t really clear as to why a certain character did what they did.

The first half establishes the characters, their history with each other and builds expectations for an action-packed, love fight between the females in particular.

However, the second half takes a more serious route with events unfolding that threw the production into a more emotional direction.

Without giving away any spoilers, incidents happen to certain characters that were not expected and the reasoning behind some of them is unclear. Nevertheless, the humour is still evident especially in the character of Derek.

With a small cast of only six people, it is hard to only pick out a few that really stood out as they all brought their own characters to life.

From the sexual predator of Brad (Stephen Billington) through to the naïve, foreigner Baba (Edwards), the whole cast perfectly fitted into their own roles.

Out of them all, Russell Dixon’s performance of the submissive, kind hearted and slightly flamboyant of Derek is the star of the show.

His continuous use of funny quirks and recurring motives keep the audience entertained throughout and his character was admired greatly by the audience that one of his scenes even caused the audience to applaud his reactions to a certain character.

This shows that Dixon is an extremely talented actor that can influence a reaction from the audience.

One critique that must be said is that there were some instances when it was difficult to hear what the actors were saying.

Whether or not they didn’t have microphones or if they weren’t working is a question I kept asking myself. When the noise of the audience enjoying the production overrode the actors performing did cause some issues.

Nevertheless, Hero’s Welcome is a play that is worth watching for any theatre fans and the full audience only proves how well-admired Ayckbourn is in the Scarborough area.

Hero’s Welcome is performing in Scarborough until October 3 and will begin its tour after its run at The Stephen Joseph Theatre.

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