Few plays can garner laughs at the expense of terminal illness, but Alan Ayckbourn’s dark comedy does just that in Sinodun Players’ spring production Life of Riley. When hedonistic and utterly feckless schoolteacher George Riley learns he has only a few months to live, six of his friends get together and plan how to make his last days as happy as possible. But their efforts result in all kinds of complications as their own personal and marital relationships are called into question in unforeseen ways. Despite being the chief character, Riley is never actually seen, but is very much in evidence, his ‘hippie Peter Pan’ persona causing chaos and far reaching consequences throughout. In describing the play, his 74th, Ayckbourn said: “Riley never appears: he’s a dying man, and it’s about the people left behind. I’ve always wanted to write a comedy that finishes with a funeral, and gets laughs.”
Director Graham Fyffe said: On the face of it, this seems to be deadly serious play but being Ayckbourn, laughter is always present as he yet again dissects the complacency, worries and angst of middle class, middle aged people. The play also contains a final surprise!
Performances take place at Corn Exchange, Wallingford on 15-18 April at 7.45pm. Tickets are £10 from box office 01491 825000 or www.cornexchange.org.uk