Me, Myself and I

A few years ago the Orange Tree struck gold with its festive musical Wild Wild Women which was as buoyant, lively and crowd-pleasing as any theatregoer could possibly wish. Alan Ayckbourn's quirky show- co-penned with Paul Todd - which first premiered here in 1982 is not in the same league, but it's certainly entertaining enough with its witty musical dramatisation of a day in the life of one Mary Yately (Jacqui Charlesworth).

Teetering on the edge of a nervous breakdown, Mary finds her personality split into three distinct identities, the ' Me, Myself and I' of the title. Outwardly demure, inside Mary has repressed passions now simmering on the point of explosion. The catalyst for her meltdown is the innocuous interview she's due to give local reporter Rodney Beech (Nigel Richards) as winner of his paper's "Mother of the Year" competition.

In the show's first half we see how Mary concocts a sensual fantasy for the impressionable newshound, turning the prosaic details of her life as housewife and mother into spicy material that her more adventurous alter egos play out on stage. Later this impersonal interview gives way to an intimate domestic drama as Mary and her husband Bill try to work out how their youthful selves evolved into the humdrum couple of today.

Smoothly directed by Kim Grant, the superb quartet that includes Jessica Martin as 'Myself' and Stephanie Putson as 'I ' bring as much humour and vitality as feasible to a light but amusing piece, ably assisted by Kenn Oldfield's snappy choreography. Although the tone throughout is bittersweet at best, the note of hope concluding the show is in the best spirit of Christmas, ideal for anyone seeking a less saccharine alternative to the usual seasonal fare.

(Amanda Hodges)

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