Joking Apart: West End Reviews

Joking Apart opened in the West End in 1979. This page presents extracts from some of the major reviews of the London premiere of the play.

Daily Mail (Jack Tinker)
"Comedy has become as dirty a word as refuse in the West End these days. Yet here is Alan Ayckbourn, perennial as the sweetest rose, to give it back its good name…. The humour is often low key and Chekhovian in its irony."

Daily Telegraph (Eric Shorter)
"Although it is amusingly and sharply observed as a study of middle-class suburban jealousy there is something so strangely bland and baleful about the characterisation that it freezes our smiles. There is no one to whom our hearts can go out more than briefly, and although almost everyone seems to be drawn from real life, they are drawn perhaps too closely for real fun."

Evening Standard (Milton Shulman)
"Alan Ayckbourn writes plays of either hilarious despair or quiet despair.
Joking Apart is of the socco voce variety with emotions rarely rising loud enough to clear the throat…. I am afraid this mellow comedy must be marked down as one of Ayckbourn's disappointments."

Financial Times (B.A. Young)
As the title may suggest, this is Alan Ayckbourn in his sociological mood again…. The author himself directs, and the familiar comic skills flicker about the stage."

The Guardian (Michael Billington)
"It's an interesting, always enjoyable play. But my own feeling is that Ayckbourn says most about human behaviour, the nearest he comes to downright farce…. In
Joking Apart the shadows on the lawn are lengthening: but I still believe the more farcical his work is, the more clearly you hear the authentic sound of human desperation."

New Statesman (Benedict Nightingale)
"The last scene… is as good as anything Ayckbourn has written, justifying in itself his continued attempt to darken his comedy and deepen our laughter. In fact, I have a strong suspicion that the plays as a whole is his best so far; and that means it is very interesting indeed."

The Observer (Francis King)
"The final scene, in which all the characters - except, of course, Richard and Anthea - are shown to have lost self-assurance and hope is a masterly piece of writing…. Mr Ayckbourn has called this a comedy; but it is only a a comedy in the sense that
The Cherry Orchard is one."

Punch (Sheridan Morley)
"The shadows are lengthening on the Ayckbourn lawns, his latest London play,
Joking Apart… [is] a haunting and intermittently very funny account of the awfulness of perfection…. This may well not prove to be the most commercial of the Ayckbourns, but in the final reckoning I think it will live a lot longer than most: the mechanics are less obtrusive than elsewhere, the characters more thoughtfully drawn, the jokes more integrated."

The Spectator (Peter Jenkins)
"The first act I thought was low key, even a bit on the slow side, though exquisitely observed…. In the second act the sadness and the cruelty begin to connect and they are powerful companions as you leave the theatre."

The Stage (R.B. Marriott)
Joking Apart still stands high as a creative work. The characterisation is splendid. It has been brilliantly directed by the author and is superbly played."

All reviews are copyright of the respective publication.