REVIEW: Way Upstream by Alan Ayckbourn at Chichester Festival Theatre

Way Upstream. Photography by Simon Annand
Way Upstream. Photography by Simon Annand

Artists have produced some stunning sets at Chichester’s premiere theatre over the years.

But the latest backdrop to this Ayckbourn classic is a real Wow.

Without the £22m renew project which transformed the theatre - especially its behind-the scenes facilities - it simply would not have been possible to stage anything on this scale.

And what a scale it is.

Not only does the stage feature the all-important boat but an entire river and wood have been created.

It is a triumph.

It’s little wonder that the theatre’s transformation was recognised once again last week with five RIBA architectural awards including the region’s coveted Building of the Year.

As for the play itself, it’s a classic Ayckbourn from the early 1980s.

On the surface, it’s the story of two business partners and their wives hiring a river boat for a couple of weeks’ holiday together.

But like everything penned by the master, the irreverent, farcical humour soon gives way to the darkest and most sinister dimensions of human nature.

It’s about authority. Leadership. Dictatorship. And the insecurities that plague even those who seem most secure.

Rich in subtle political context from the age of its birth, it has lost none of its resonance.

Some great performances - not least from the amazing Sarah Parish.

As the launch production for the 2015 season, this play shows that the theatre has lost none of its courage both for creative and technical achievement.