Relative Strangers (and God). The Mill at Sonning, 14th March 2020

God, who we all know is Alanis Morissette, is clearly not very happy with the inhabitants of planet Earth. Those hints about climate change were clearly too subtle for many so she decided that another forty days and forty nights of rain leading to flooding might clue some people up. When that didn’t have the desired effect she decided that a bout of pestilence might be needed. Who knows (maybe WHO knows?) where that is going to lead to.

So when the door bell rang this week I opened it expecting to find the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and was only slightly less surprised to find two Jehovah’s Witnesses instead. I said that I thought that they had stopped make house calls and instead had taken to standing on street corners looking bored and chatting to each other. I was told that they hadn’t stopped that just yet. One wonders if they had been sent out from head office to check that we all had our needs met for the end of the world. I told them I was good and had plenty of toilet paper thanks.

So what has this all got to do with a trip to the theatre to see Alan Ayckbourn’s Relative Strangers at the Mill at Sonning? Not a great deal other than we wondered what impact the current COVID-19 outbreak might have on it. We also wondered whether we should actually go. In the end we decided that given the UK government seems to want 80% of the country to get the virus to give us ‘herd immunity’ we should do our bit. As it turned out others had clearly had the same thought and the theatre was half empty (or half full if you are that kind of person) when I think it could reasonably be assumed that under normal circumstances it would have been full.

The show started with the MD of the theatre thanking us for making the effort to come out despite all that is going on and then said she had some bad news and some good news. The bad news was that the young female lead had been taken ‘ill’. I did wonder if the next words to be spoken were to be ‘and the young male lead has now had to self isolate’ but no they were slightly more surprising. It turned out that there wasn’t an understudy for the part but the good news was one of the male leads girlfriend had agreed to step in at the last minute and play the part. But was she the girlfriend of the younger or older male lead or was she seeing both of them? This being a reference to the play that absolutely nobody will get…

What the girl hadn’t had time to do was to memorise the lines and so she did the whole thing with the printed script in hand reading the lines and checking her position. Despite this she was actually very good and while it looked a little odd it didn’t affect the play.

Turns out that an Alan Ayckbourn farce is just the thing to take your mind off all the doom and gloom going on in the world. Given that it is likely to be the last thing we can go out and see for a while I’m glad that we went.

And I leave you with a fitting song…