Ayesha Antoine, Terence Booth, Ruth Gibson, Paul Kemp, Petra Letang, Alexandra Mathie
Proving itself to be a delightful morsel of a play, Sir Alan Ayckbourn’s seventy-second full-length outing, My Wonderful Day, finds one of England’s leading comic playwrights once again at the top of his game, tackling characters who are quirky and mysterious, full of secrets and unspoken desires, but inherently astoundingly funny.
Drawing its name from the essay that eight-year-old Winnie Barnstairs has been assigned to write for school, Ayckbourn’s modest-sized play (clocking in at about ninety minutes) follows Winnie as she accompanies her pregnant mother to work one day, playing hooky by faking sick. Winnie’s mum Laverne – who’s pregnant cleans regularly for Kevin Tate, a stodgy English TV personality who can’t take the time to remember her name.
As Winnie’s titular wonderful day goes on, Kevin, his business colleague Josh, his secretary Tiffany, and his wife Paula, all end up making a mess of their tawdry upper-middle-class lives, the play eventually culminating in a series of hilarious mishaps and disasters that ensue because of various misunderstandings and missed communications.
Little Winnie, played by Ayesha Antoine (who’s actually, shockingly, twenty years older than the character she’s playing) is the hapless observer of the adults’ foibles. This is certainly Ayckbourn’s point in writing this play – that children aren’t idiots; in fact, they notice far more about the follies of the adults around them than they’re given credit for.
The uniformly excellent cast also includes Petra Letang as Laverne, who remains focused on Winnie’s education despite the limitations of their shared circumstances. Cheery Ruth Gibson fluffs things up as assistant-cum-mistress Tiffany (referred to by Kevin as Ickle Tiffy during their carryings-on), presenting herself as the utter antithesis of Alexandra Mathie’s buttoned-up wife Paula, replete with sullen charcoal gray outfit and stiff-upper-lip demeanor.
The genius of Ayckbourn’s play which is well-acted, its dialogue delivered with pitch-perfect timing and plenty of gusto, comes even more often in the silent (or partly silent) moments during the course of the day’s events. As the curtain comes down on the play, in fact, it’s the facial expressions of young Winnie and her mother Laverne that ultimately clinch the play and provide us with its final, well-earned punchline. These characters, given marvelous dialogue, are proven more assured by the fact that Ayckbourn has rendered them so fully that their words are almost secondary. Action is what counts, and Ayckbourn is at heart all about action.