My Wonderful Day
nytheatre.com review by David Gordon
November 15, 2009
Alan Ayckbourn has bent the conventions in a variety of ways in his 72 plays. One takes place in three bedrooms. Another takes place on three consecutive Christmas Eves. A number of them take place concurrently in a variety of locations and are performed either simultaneously or one after the other.
Number 73, My Wonderful Day, isn't so much of a convention bender as it is a different look at the world. Specifically, it's a look at a single day from the perspective of a nine-year-old African-Caribbean British girl named Winnie, who has accompanied her pregnant single mother Laverne, a house-cleaner, to work.
The house, sterile and very dimly lit, is not exactly child-friendly. Its owners are Kevin and Paula Tate, a "celebrity couple," he a TV host, she a filmmaker. Kevin isn't exactly a warm person, neither is Paula, and they are separated. (He, incidentally, is carrying on an affair with his secretary, Tiffany, much younger.) When Laverne goes into labor on their couch, Winnie is left with Kevin, Tiffany, and Kevin's friend Josh. Eventually Paula returns. As per usual in an Ayckbourn play, hilarity ensues, though it's only funny until you realize how sad it is for everyone on stage.
Winnie is a quiet, introspective role that requires the actress to sit and observe; after all, the play is from her point of view. The role is played by Ayesha Antoine, who is 28. She captures all the mannerisms of childhood, the shocked faces, the wide eyes, and the downcast glance. She's innocent and unassuming, nervous and frightened. It is a quiet, no-frills performance, just like the rest of the company, and she, in particular, is jaw-dropping.
Terence Booth is appropriately frightening as Kevin; Petra Letang is Laverne, who dreams of one day living in Martinique; and Paul Kemp has some nice moments as Josh, with a mesmerizing and touching monologue about his daughter. Ruth Gibson as the loud, abrasive, and gorgeous Tiffany, as well as Alexandra Mathie's devil-on-wheels Paula, steal the show.
Ayckbourn, jack-of-all-trades, stages the production with finesse and ease, with more than a few genius touches thrown in, thanks in part to set designer Roger Glossop and lighting designer Mick Hughes.
Ayckbourn apparently based the mother-child-absent father storyline on his own life, as he has in a number of his plays. While My Wonderful Day may not be as complex as The Norman Conquests or Absurd Person Singular, it is certainly just as heartfelt.