(Dominic Maxwell's article appeared June 29 in The Times of London.)

Private Fears In Public Places at the Royal, Northampton

Alan Ayckbourn’s excellent thirtysomethings fear loneliness, yet also fear the exposure that too much closeness brings

The most recent of this year’s revivals to mark Alan Ayckbourn’s 70th birthday, Private Fears in Public Places is a play that doesn’t join its dots. In short scenes, over 100 minutes, we follow six protagonists who lead overlapping but lonely London lives. And if it doesn’t quite cohere like Ayckbourn at his most revealing, well, disconnection is the theme. Secrets that you expect to become clear stay murky. Characters you expect to hook up stay separate.

I’m not convinced that everyone here quite belongs to 2004, when this was first performed — Ayckbourn’s computerless estate agents are a touch too square, his ex-Army boy is a shade too Young Edward Fox. But I also know that I would happily sit through another 100 minutes to find out more about characters whose frailties and frivolities are always convincingly human . . .  


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