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  • Writer's pictureSarah

How the Other Half Loves - a review of Alan Ayckbourn's classic play at The Mill at Sonning

Updated: Dec 10, 2023


river with a wooden building on the shore
View from the patio

A trip to The Mill at Sonning always feels like a treat. Sonning itself is a quintessentially pretty English village. The old flour mill now turned into a theatre, bar, and restaurant is a lovely building, and you get to eat a nice meal and then see a show. What's not to like? It's even more impressive that The Mill at Sonning has upped it's green credentials and uses the water wheel visible from within the bar area to create electricity for the theatre.

Water wheel turning visible through a glass panel

I'd read the synopsis of How the Other Half Loves written by Alan Ayckbourn, but it all sounded a bit confusing. Set in the early 1970s it consists of a cast of 6 playing 3 married couples:


The Fosters - Frank & Fiona.

The Philips - Bob & Teresa.

And the Featherstones - William & Mary.


Frank employs Bob and William. Fiona is having an affair with the much younger Bob. When Teresa gets suspicious of a late night out, Bob claims that he was out with William, consoling him as Mary is having an affair. Teresa wants to help the Featherstone's marriage to survive and invites the Featherstone's to dinner.


Fiona's excuse for being late also involves the Featherstone's, she claims that she was with Mary as Mary suspects William of having an affair. Frank is shocked and asks the Featherstone's to dinner to check that William is indeed the 'right sort of chap' to work for Frank's department.


The staging of How the Other Half Loves is very clever, we are simultaneously in Frank and Fiona's elegant classically decorated home, and in Bob and Teresa's modern 1970s décor home. Fiona keeps her home immaculate, the same can't be said for Teresa who has a baby to care for. Michael Holt's design is to be commended, this is really tricky to pull off, and his set design does it really well.

Woman on a 1970s land line telephone
Julia Hills plays Fiona Foster. Photo credit Andreas Lambis

Pre-mobile phone days clandestine calls had to be made on landlines, with some very lame excuses being made when the 'wrong' person answers the call. The audience is able to see the calls being made and answered in the different homes, adding to the enjoyment of all the confusion.


William and Mary are the innocent parties tangled in Fiona and Bob’s lies, neither is having an affair, and they are very confused about why they have suddenly been invited to dinner by both other couples.

Two woman and a man at a dinner table
Mary (Emily Pithon), Teresa (Ruth Gibson), and William (Ben Porter) at dinner, but not in the same room nor on the same night. Photo credit Andreas Lambis

The dinner parties take place on 2 consecutive evenings, the first in Frank and Fiona's house, the second at Teresa and Bobs. But they are staged simultaneously together via an interlocking table. The comic timings from all the cast is spot on, as these dinner parties from hell unfold.


Will the wrong towards William and Mary be righted? Will all 3 marriages survive? To find out the answers you'll need to treat yourself to a meal and performance at The Mill at Sonning.


Cast of How the Other Half Loves:

STUART FOX (Frank Foster)

RUTH GIBSON (Teresa Philips)

JULIA HILLS (Fiona Foster)

DAMIEN MATTHEWS (Bob Philips)

EMILY PITHON (Mary Featherstone)

BEN PORTER (William Featherstone)


Creative team of How the Other Half Loves:

ROBIN HERFORD - Director

MICHAEL HOLT - Set Designer

NATALIE TITCHENER - Costume Designer

MATT BISS Lighting Designer

Directed by Robin Herford


Where is it playing?

The Mill at Sonning Theatre

Sonning Eye

Reading

RG4 6TY

Ticket prices include a 2 course meal


When is it playing?

Now until 23rd September 2023


Evening Shows Wed - Sat

Thursday matinees until 31 August

Saturday matinees Every Week

Sunday matinees from 3 September



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