Woman In Mind: London Premiere ReviewsWoman In Mind opened in the West End in 1986. This page presents extracts from some of the major reviews of the London premiere of the play.
Daily Mail (by Jack Tinker)
"He [Ayckbourn] can still produce the sort of theatrical surprise and emotional intensity which knocks you for six…. This is Ayckbourn at his least benign. Once more he has laid suburbia out on the psychiatrist's couch and ruthlessly analysed it's murky subconscious. The fact that he makes us laugh out loud should mislead no-one into calling it a comedy."
Daily Telegraph (by Eric Shorter)
"An odd evening but worth any playgoer's time if only to admire its ambiguities and admire the way in which the author leads us up his path."
Financial Times (by Michael Coveney)
"This piece is new and black and adventurous even for Ayckbourn, whose inventiveness shows no sign of flagging after 32 plays, an extraordinary fact of our theatre life."
The Guardian (by Michael Billington)
"Any lingering suspicions that Alan Ayckbourn is a boulevard lightweight should be ruthlessly dismissed by Woman In Mind. It is about female frustration, despair and madness and shows its heroine torn between reality and fantasy, God and the Devil. Yet, without trivialising its subject, it also manages to be very funny… it goes even further than Just Between Ourselves in pushing Ayckbourn's Comedy of Pain to its extremist limits."
Illustrated London News (by J.C. Trewin)
"This is also an extraordinary black comedy…. It seems to me that no practising dramatist can match his [Ayckbourn's] daring, ingenuity and depth…. In the quality of invention and technical expertise Woman In Mind transcends any other play of the year."
International Herald Tribune (by Michael Billington)
"Technically, the play is as adventurous as anything Ayckbourn has yet written…. Ayckbourn's great gift is that he keeps us laughing while saying unpalatable things…. Ayckbourn has also created one of the best women's roles in the modern repertory…. A remarkable, unnerving evening."
"Much of his [Ayckbourn's] work stretches the form in contemplative, un-English directions. Woman In Mind does exactly that, with an audacity that lifts the heart…. What's more, the dramatist's prolificacy can no longer be regarded as some kind of suspect compulsion. It clearly derives from a warm-blooded voracity for drama's possibilities."
London Standard (by Milton Shulman)
"A small percentage of his [Ayckbourn's] 32 plays have been trimmed with purple. Woman In Mind indicates a movement towards deep black. Suburbia is converted from a fun playground into a dark pit."
Mail On Sunday (by Kenneth Hurren)
"Ayckbourn has tried before to freeze laugher in the throat - but never more successfully."
"In Susan, and in Julia McKenzie's perfectly judged and quite harrowing performance, he [Ayckbourn] has created a greatly appealing Everywoman, who shall haunt me for some time."
The Observer (by Michael Ratcliffe)
"[Woman In Mind] is courageous but disappointing…. An intermittently touching and funny piece drawing on the manners of English theatre 40 and 50 years ago."
"He [Ayckbourn], even more than Beckett and Pinter, is a dramatic poet of suburban despair, of genteel routine and hopelessness. He is unparalleled presenting characters who express everything they don't mean."
The Stage (by Peter Hepple)
"If I feel that Woman In Mind is not destined to be as obviously popular as most of his other plays, it will be come to be regarded as one of his best, ready in years to come to be ranked alongside Ibsen and Strindberg in its cutting examination of the human mind under ordinary domestic circumstances."
"As usual, his [Ayckbourn's] dialogue is spot on. We laugh at ourselves through his characters and the experience is at once painful and exhilarating."
Sunday Telegraph (by Francis King)
"One can only marvel at the construction of a piece in which the author constantly leads one to expect one thing, only to deliver something wholly different…. This must be one of the funniest plays in London. It is also the most disturbing."
Sunday Times (by John Peter)
"He [Ayckbourn] is the war reporter of comedy: he files from the front line and shows us in unsparing detail that funny stories can cost their participants life and limb…. The play has been rewritten since I first saw it at Scarborough last year: its ending is now decisive, fearless and shocking. Ayckbourn is writing at his best: his characterisation is both ruthless and beguiling."
This Is London
"This is probably the best serious play currently available in the West End. Although it really is funny and contains some classic Ayckbourn lines and situations, Woman In Mind is no comedy."
The Times (by Irving Wardle)
"One must repeat that this is a comedy: and that it rises to its greatest comic brilliance at the climax where the heroine - lying out in a thunderstorm at three in the morning - imagine her daughter's wedding."
Times Educational Supplement
"From the pain of marital and mental breakdown, Ayckbourn mines the pure gold of comedy. It is a risky business that succeeds triumphantly, showing unexpected depths in his writing."
Times Literary Supplement (by Carol Rumens)
"If Alan Ayckbourn had been a woman playwright, he would no doubt by now have been the darling of radical feminists, healed as a chronicler of the woes of heterosexual womanhood. That this side of his imagination has been relatively undervalued suggests the opposite of sexism in its less usual form."
"Though it concludes on a wrenching down note, Woman In Mind is also hugely entertaining and one of the funniest plays in a prolific career that hasn't always evidenced such mastery of the black-comedy art. With this one, though, he's simply at the top of his classy form."
All reviews are copyright of the respective publication.