The story concerns Barbara, a landlady who lets out her top floor flat to Nikki, an old school friend. Nikki and her fiance Hamish are only renting the flat temporarily until their new house has been decorated. However, Barbara and Hamish take an instant dislike to each other and are constantly exchanging insults and sarcastic remarks. But within days, although still detesting each other, they unexpectedly begin to fall in love, which poses the dilemma of how they are to break the news to Nikki. When they do break the news to Nikki this results in an explosive and extraordinary outcome.
Alan Ayckbourn has written over 50 plays and this has to rank as one of his best. It's funny, intriguing, surprising and thoroughly entertaining with 4 beautifully crafted characters.
Jane Asher is awesome as Barbara, a stern and difficult woman who lives alone. She has never had an adult relationship in her life and has only once had sex, which was when she was still at school. Barbara is lonely, even if she won't admit it, and is really quite soft under that hard exterior. This is a role that needed to be cast perfectly for the play to work, and Jane Asher certainly succeeds. Steven Pacey, (Bertie Wooster in "By Jeeves" at the Duke Of York's in 1996), is convincing as Hamish, a vegetarian Scotsman who is considerate, patient and kind, or rather that is until he meets Barbara! Serena Evans is also delightful as the delicate and vulnerable Nikki, who has recently come out of a violent marriage and now has hopes of a perfect future with Hamish. The fourth character, Gilbert, played by Barry McCarthy complements the main story very well. Gilbert, a postman, who is simple and boring with a drink problem, rents the flat downstairs. However, he hides an obsession for Barbara, which results in him secretly painting naked pictures of her, and I won't tell you what he does with her clothes that he should have taken to the charity shop!
The set is ingeniously designed by Roger Glossop, which is based on an idea by Alan Ayckbourn himself. It is split into three rooms, the middle room where Barbara lives, Nikki's upstairs flat, which is unusual in that the audience can only see the actor's legs and a bed! And below the middle room is the basement flat where Gilbert lives, which only occupies a very tiny cupboard-like space on the stage.
The popular press generally liked the play. PETER HEPPLE of THE STAGE says of Ayckbourn "Nobody does it better" JOHN PETER of THE SUNDAY TIMES says "Asher has come up with the best and most glittering performance of her career" and goes on to say "It may be Alan Ayckbourn's 52nd play but his insights are still fresh." NICOLAS DE JONGH of THE EVENING STANDARD says the play generates "Suspense and anxiety, allied with cruel painful humour."
"Things We Do For Love" is a beautifully written play that is funny and well cast, and is certainly recommended, particularly for the unexpected events in the last scene!