But I don’t feel like laughing, I feel more like crying. Because what I see is You kissing Her I put on my smile and pretend to be laughing. But my mind screams out, WHY HER?! She doesn’t know you, she doesn’t care about you. Like I do. She only cares about, being seen with the right people. She’s only going to hurt you. So why is all I see, You kissing Her? I wish you knew how much I care, and how much I miss you. I wish you knew that I’m laying awake tonight. Looking at the picture of you and me, writing this poem about you and her. Why are you making it, so painful and yet so easy, for me to be in love with you? Why are you kissing her, and not me? In preparation for my acting assessment, I am playing the role of Dennis in “Just Between Ourselves” by Alan Ayckbourn.
In order to research Ayckbourn’s style and method, I have also looked at his “Confusions” collection and, in particular, the play “Between Mouthfuls”. “Just Between Ourselves” is a comedy, set in late 70s England, following a dysfunctional married couple (Dennis and Vera) on their quest to sell a useless old car to an equally troubled pair (Neil and Pam). It is, however, a dark comedy which touches on many serious issues, such as mental and physical illness, and the constant tension and conflict between the ill-matched couples.
“Between Mouthfuls” also depicts two couples – the wealthy, bossy, and slightly posh Donald and Emma Pierce, and the younger Martin and Polly Chalmers. It is set in a restaurant in 80s England, and during the course of the play we experience the conversations from the point of view of the waiter, who remains hilariously deadpan and emotionless, despite the increasingly violent confrontations amongst the couples.
The period and culture of both plays are almost identical – they’re both set in the late 20th Century, in a suburban middle class world, and deal with middle-aged couples and their marriages. Both have very unremarkable settings, using only a garage and a garden space, or a restaurant for the whole play to take place in. The settings are incredibly original, with Ayckbourn even utilising a car on stage throughout “Just Between Ourselves” demonstrating daring creativity on the writer’s behalf. In both plays, the couples seem to be comfortably off without having in any way extravagant life-styles. The restaurant in “Between Mouthfuls” is modest and ordinary, and the car being sold in “Just Between Ourselves” is very standard (although we try to put forward the impression that it’s old and useless for comedic effect).
The couples have enough money to go out to eat, go on holidays abroad, and to run cars; however they’re not wealthy. Their pre-occupations are their work, their homes and their family relationships. There are no references to historical or political events, but the period shines through via the lack of technology (no mobile phones or internet) plus the rather old-fashioned attitudes to women, such as my character Dennis’s constant sexist yet seemingly innocent abuse towards his wife, for example “Let the queen back in her kitchen!” and “bloody dopey, aren’t you my love”. This clearly would be considered disgraceful these days, so certainly helps establish the play’s period and culture.