Relatively Speaking: An interview with director David Kimmins

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Today I had the pleasure of interviewing David Kimmins, a kind and interesting man who managed to meet me before a night of rehearsing commenced for Relatively Speaking.

Do you feel like the cast you have are creating the vision you wanted/desired?

Yes. This play, I think is one of Ayckbourn’s best plays. The play is extraordinary, it was described by Michael Billington a critic when it was first produced in 1968 I think as ‘a masterpiece of construction’. He also thought it was a miracle that Ayckbourn was able to keep up this one misunderstanding throughout this whole play. It is absolutely wonderful and it has these beautiful moments where being British, the characters are speaking across purposes. One American critic said ‘why the bloody hell don’t they say who are you?!’ The cast have got this and I have a lovely cast. I have worked with two of them before, no actually all of them before (laughs). So I know what they can do, its great to have them. Ayckbourn is a directors dream because it is so well constructed and paces itself completely. But they’re challenging for actors because unless you get the right line and the right rhythm of the play, then you can loose a laugh too. Then the other actors hate you and the director gets very cross, you know (laughs). But it does work beautifully.

What is something audiences can expect from your interpretation that they may not have been exposed to before?

I think they’ve got to tune in, which I am sure the Ayckbourn fans will already know, they’ve got to except that this in an extremely clever verbal farce. There’s no trousers coming off, it’s extremely clever. The definition of farce is ordinary people in extraordinary situations. Well this is precisely the same but its word and character, there’s no bum jokes and it requires very skilled actors. We’ve had moments in rehearsal where the cast have been in fits of laughter because if you know a joke is coming it’s hard to not allow yourself to laugh. This is a word farce and identity farce.

What made you want to direct the play?

Oh, well, I am an Ayckbourn fan and through his career he introduced darker things into his plays, plus humour. He’s covered a whole range of things, so his later plays one would pick and choose, but his earlier plays like Relatively Speaking is out and out set to entertain. I also think this is his best play and I was delighted when I got it, and it is a wonderful play to do. It isn’t director or actor proof but it just flows so beautifully. It is also a laugh a minute and the task for the cast on the night is knowing when those laughs are going to come.

Which character relationship interests the most?

Well, there are two relationships that are key one is Greg and Ginny, the younger couple and Ginny has had affairs before and Greg is more innocent. But what is lovely is the relationship between Sheila and Phillip, the older couple. The first scene they are in, act one scene two, has them sitting in the garden on a Sunday and there is a beautiful scene which is slightly dark but you can see the edginess of this. Ayckbourn later developed these dark moments very strongly indeed. The reason it works is because the audience will see that couple and see parts of themselves within the characters.

Do you have any pre-show traditions or rituals?

No, that’s interesting. No I don’t actually except pacing up and down (smiles and laughs).

How do you get the best out of the actors?

By building on what they’ve got. Certainly in the amateur theatre if you try to impose, ‘do it like this’ or demonstrate, I think it’s the worst thing to do. You aren’t them, you set aside the acting skills you’ve got and take what they have and build on it.

Do you ever sneak out in the interval to hear what the audience are thinking or do you like to speak to your cast?

I always go backstage and speak to the cast and say well done and encourage them. I do have a tradition actually to sit where I can rush out and see them coming off stage so I can greet them. I do cheat and ask the people I am sitting next to what they think.

Phoebe Peel

Have you got your Relatively Speaking tickets? Relatively Speaking plays between 14th – 19th March 2016