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Alan Ayckbourn’s Round and Round the Garden review at The Mill at Sonning Theatre, Reading – ‘gentle observational comedy’

Round and Round the Garden at The Mill at Sonning Theatre. Photo: Geraint Lewis Round and Round the Garden at The Mill at Sonning Theatre. Photo: Geraint Lewis

Carefully programming creativity with security to ensure that the audiences remain loyal, The Mill at Sonning Theatre returns to mainstream Alan Ayckbourn for its autumn production. Round and Round the Garden is probably the most familiar choice for staging just one of the Norman Conquests trilogy, in which we see Norman seduce the three women in his close family, often with comedic – but also with a poignant – effect.

James Wallace is mischievous and insolent as Norman, perfectly described by Sarah Edwardson, as his wife Ruth, as an “unmanageable dog”, and indeed he does have those sheepdog eyes and shaggy unkemptness which Ruth controls through her own self preservation techniques.

Chris Porter is entertaining as the inept suitor Tom, with Susannah Harker and Harry Gostelow representing the disdain and vanity of upper-class surburbia. Nelly Harker completes the cast as Annie, whose questionable self-esteem is the unexpected catalyst for both family harmony and marital discord.

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Ayckbourn’s gentle observational comedy gets conventional treatment with some well-drawn characters from the cast of six