BWW Reviews: WOMAN IN MIND, Birmingham Rep, June 17 2014
Woman In Mind is thought of as one of Alan Ayckbourn's best works. It is the English playwright's 32nd play and his earliest using a first-person narrative. The plot centres around Susan who, having hit herself in the head with a garden rake, is found at the start of the play concussed on her garden lawn. Following this she is surrounded by her idyllic family whom we soon realise are merely a figment of her imagination and her real family situation is far from picturesque! For most of the show's duration it is apparent what is fantasy and what is reality but towards the end of Act Two, the two scenarios begin to overlap and eventually collide in what can only be described as an epic meltdown.
Ti Green's design portrays a typical English country garden which is displayed well with 'turf' laid down and trees surrounding the area. There is also a cube suspended upstage centre which occasionally features members of her fantasy family. This is an interesting visual piece but on the whole unnecessary. I understand what this is trying to achieve but unfortunately it fell a bit short. Mark Doubleday's lighting design compliments the rural design although infrequently it washed out the projection on the cube. The direction of the performers by Marilyn Imrie is excellent and she makes sure of all the wit is extracted from Ayckbourn's text.
The star of the show - and rightly so - is Meg Fraser as Susan. She is on the stage throughout and her performance is so natural and believable. Fraser also has to flit between RP and Scottish accents dependant on which world she finds herself in which is a skill in itself. Much of the comedy element comes from her, Bill, the family doctor, played by Neil McKinven, and sister in law Muriel (Irene MacDougall), who are very amusing throughout. Although Susan is the central character, her journey would not be possible without the strength of the ensemble company and all together form an excellent production.
Woman in Mind plays at the Birmingham Rep Theatre until 28 June 2014.