AudioIntroductionMarch07 1 A Small Family Business - Introduction Welcome to this introduction to A Small Family Business by Alan Ayckbourn. It has been directed by Christopher Luscombe. The Vocaleyes audio-described performance at Watford Palace Theatre will be given on Saturday the 13th of October. There will be a touch tour at 1.30pm the introductory notes will start at 2.45 and the performance itself at 3pm The production lasts for two hours and thirty minutes with a fifteen minute interval. There now follows information about the production which has been split into 3 sections: Section One describes the set; Section Two, the characters and their costumes; and Section Three gives a list of production credits. You may like to note that this information was written at the beginning of the production’s life and there are sometimes artistic changes to the show during its run. We therefore repeat this introduction live, fifteen minutes before the start of the performance, accommodating any changes, and adding additional information about settings, costumes or characters. The live audio description will be given for Vocaleyes by Willie Elliot and Lonny Evans. Section 1 – The Set A Small Family Business first opened at the National’s Olivier Theatre in June 1987, only a few days before Margaret Thatcher found herself back in Downing Street with a substantial majority. Commissioned by Sir Peter Hall, Alan Ayckbourn wrote the play – a moral fable - about a working-class family who AudioIntroductionMarch07 2 have made good, through the success of their furniture business. The play found favour with the National Theatre’s powers-that-be and Ayckbourn set about meeting the challenges of the Olivier Theatre’s large stage space. ‘I knew the Olivier of old,’ he wrote. ‘Not the friendliest of spaces for those purveyors of modern low-key naturalistic drama….With a Small Family Business, I found the perfect excuse to put on stage something that had always been till then beyond my wildest budget, namely a two-storey house complete with working kitchen and bathroom. The biggest dolls’ house in the world.’ Twenty years on, in today’s consumer society, the themes of the play still resonate and Ackybourn’s ambitious dolls’ house set has been created anew on the stage at Watford Palace. The action takes place in the present over a period of one week in a two storey Family house. This house represents the different houses of various people. The action centres primarily around the home of Jack and Poppy McCracken, but sometimes action will be played out by one Family in the downstairs area and another in the upstairs area, or in different rooms, so the single house location can represent and contain several individual Family homes at once. As we take our seats we are presented with a cross-section of a modern house with four rooms open to us, two up and two down, with a hallway and stairs in between. The House is furnished in a comfortable, modern style, showcasing furniture from the Family’s business ‘Ayres and Graces’. The mood is light, airy and functional with a neutral décor in creams and pastel tones. Ours is a rear view, as if the back wall of the house has fallen away. Facing us are the two main ground floor rooms, a large sitting room on the left and a large kitchen on the right. Between these rooms towards the rear, is a wide entrance hall. Most of the interior walls have been taken away, enabling us to see clearly into all of the rooms. The boundary between the two front rooms is marked by a line of white skirting board. The side walls, at either end of the stage, are AudioIntroductionMarch07 3 delineated by white wooden frames covered in black mesh. They protrude beyond the front of the stage, the top edges sloping down towards the front and finishing just below the audience boxes at either side of the Theatre. The ceiling of the front two rooms is indicated by two broad white slats, protruding horizontally over the space from the first floor. The kitchen has a side door to the rear of the right hand wall, and a solid rear wall with fitted units and a hatch that opens onto a dining room beyond. There is a central island in the middle of the room with a u-shaped, solid wooden counter top. At the far end of this counter is a gas hob. The u-shaped end of the counter, which is nearest to us, is used as a breakfast bar and has three white, wooden topped stools around it. Under the hob, unseen by us, is an oven. Along the right hand wall runs a long white counter with a wooden top and a butler sink. The sink has working taps and the water can be turned on and off. The floor is tiled in brown and grey squares and the back wall is painted ice cream pink. A rear doorway into the kitchen, from the entrance hall at the back, is delineated by a white, arched doorframe, which faces the staircase in the hall. A white painted picture rail and waist high dado rail extend left beyond the arched kitchen doorframe, marking out part of the sitting room’s missing rear wall. This white frame also delineates the sitting room doorframe which has an actual door in it, and which opens into the sitting room from the entrance hall at the back. The doorframes have square light switches protruding from them as if they were attached to the invisible walls. The sitting room, on the left, has two levels, a large front space with wood laminate flooring and then a step up to a back level, which is narrower and carpeted in cream. The lower level has a daybed by the wall on the left, upholstered in a brown and cream square patterned fabric and there’s a small table and lamp beside it. To the right of the room there is an L-shaped corner sofa, with a wicker base and moss green cushions, a matching, square seat a little way in front of it, and a AudioIntroductionMarch07 4 modern-looking, round, glass topped, coffee table between them. Two round, globe shaped lamps hang down from the short section of protruding ceiling above. The upper level at the back has an elegant cream painted wooden armchair with brown velvet upholstery on the left, with a standard lamp behind the chair. The pale green rear wall contains a pair of white double doors, with glass window panes, leading to a second comfortable family room beyond with a sofa and chairs in it. The entrance hall is the hub of the ground floor and all the rooms open off it. It’s painted a creamy colour above the waist high dado rail and warm nutmeg colour below and has the white painted main front door to the house in the rear wall. To the right of the front door is a modern looking painting lit from above, depicting brown and cream circles. The staircase runs up away from us along the right hand wall, and underneath the stairs, almost hidden from us, are a coat rack and a door leading into the dining room. Part of the entrance hall adjoins the rear kitchen and sitting room walls, which are missing, and often characters stop to admire themselves in an imaginary mirror above the hall table. The table has a slim, silver cordless phone unit on it. The stairs have a white painted banister rail and lead to a hallway on the first floor which is directly above the entrance hall below. It is painted a nutmeg colour and has a round porthole window in the rear wall. The upstairs hall has four doors leading off it, two on either side. The rear two doors, which are slightly recessed, open into unseen bedrooms on either side of the hall. The front two doors open directly into a bedroom on the left and a bathroom on the right. These two rooms are set further back than the sitting room and kitchen on the ground floor below. The bathroom on the right is directly above the unseen Dining room, and the bedroom on the left, directly above the second Family room, which we glimpse beyond the sitting room. AudioIntroductionMarch07 5 A white painted dado rail runs along, near to us, at the front of these two open upper rooms, at waist height, delineating the missing wall. In the bedroom on the left, this dado rail extends along the missing right hand wall which has a lady’s white painted dressing table and mirror against it. The dressing table has a chair in front of it and the oval mirror has no glass. The left hand wall opposite the dressing table is solid and painted in lavender, which matches the lavender bed linen. The double bed protrudes from the rear wall into the room with fitted cupboards above it and fitted wardrobes in pale wood to either side. There is a chandelier hanging down from the ceiling, made of pearly white shell, which tastefully compliments the décor. The bathroom across the hall mirrors the layout of the bedroom, with the dado rail running around the room. The sink stands against the rail near the door and there is another imaginary mirror above it. The missing front wall has a wooden towel rail, a bidet and then the toilet against it. The working toilet has its back to us with a brass pipe leading up to the cistern which has a chain dangling down. Against the rear wall, which is painted duck egg blue, is a big, white, free- standing, claw-footed bath. The bath has a shower curtain, hanging from a brass rail that pulls all the way around the front of it, cutting it off from view. Beside the bath, against the right hand wall, stands a narrow wooden shelving unit with bathroom accessories on it. There is a globe ceiling lamp and a couple of prints on the walls depicting silver leaves on a lavender background. Section two; Characters and costumes There are seventeen characters played by thirteen actors. One actor plays five characters who are all brothers. Ken Ayres is the patriarch of the family and head of the family business. Played by Ian Lindsay, Ken is seventy-nine years old. Despite stooping slightly, he is still tall and heavy set. He stands unsteadily, supported by a walking stick, although, when in mid flow, he can march in a military fashion. He is balding with white hair AudioIntroductionMarch07 6 round the sides and back of his head. He moves from being fully attentive, picking up on every joke, his shoulders shaking as he laughs, to bewilderment; his shoulders suddenly droop and his deep set blue eyes look around, lost, as he loses the thread of a conversation. When we first meet him he is dressed smartly in a black three-piece suit with a tie at the collar of his white shirt. Later, at home, he slips on a woollen jumper. Yvonne Doggett is Ken’s personal assistant. Yvonne is fifty, with a well-worn face and kind dark eyes. Her fair hair is cut into a bob, curling round the collar of her white blouse. She is slim and elegant, stepping briskly in smart beige slacks, efficiently taking care of Ken’s needs. Her arched eyebrows are pencil thin and shaded with silver eye shadow. Her thin mouth is painted a subtle red. Later she wears an elegant black dress with a black woollen cardigan, worn open. Diamonds sparkle on her brooch and on her necklace and rings. Cherith Mellor plays Yvonne. Jack McCracken, Ken’s son in law, is a businessman in his fifties. Dressed for the job he wears a grey two-piece suit with a white shirt and grey tie. His grey hair is cut short and neat, contrasting with his dark eyebrows, that frame deep set, bright blue eyes. His fleshy face has the careworn look of a man with a lot of responsibility; the skin beneath his eyes is beginning to sag. His plump nose is red above his thin-lipped mouth. Jack is played by Michael Garner. Barbara Wilshire plays Poppy, Jack’s wife. She is a conservatively dressed, slim, fifty year old. She wears a variety of skirts and open necked blouses, with a gold locket on a delicate chain around her neck. As the play progresses her clothes become less conservative as she makes the effort to look younger. Later she wears a black silk pleated skirt. The scalloped hem swishes around her knees. Her collar length blonde bobbed hair is clipped back from her forehead, showing more of her fair complexioned, attractive face, with almond shaped eyes and button nose. AudioIntroductionMarch07 7 Jack and Poppy have two daughters Samantha, known as Sammy, and Tina. Zoë Thorne plays Sammy, a pretty, sixteen year-old and the black sheep of the family. She is short and slopes around in black boots and tight trousers, a studded belt at the waist, wearing dark eye make up and black lipstick. Her blonde hair, in a middle parting, hangs loose around her shoulders. She sits apart from others, a sad look in her eyes, wearing a grey hoodie over her grey t- shirt. Later, she grudgingly agrees to wear a blue knee-length dress with a black floral print. Sammy’s older sister Tina, played by Claire Parrish, is twenty-three years old. She is tall and slim with straight hair, dyed auburn, which flows over her shoulders. She dresses fashionably in a white scoop necked blouse and skintight jeans. Her legs are made to look longer and thinner by her tight, knee length, high-heeled boots. Tina is married to Roy, who is twenty five. He is heavy set, tall and sallow skinned with his jet-black hair cut short. His brown eyes have heavy black brows and his square jaw is shaded with stubble. Roy tends to be a step behind everyone else, his face brightening as he realises the point of a joke, or a conversation, a little too late. His eyes narrow into slits as he breaks into a toothy smile. When we first meet him he is dressed in a smart blue cotton shirt and jeans. Later he dons a baseball cap, with a blue zip up blouson jacket. Nathan Amzi plays Roy. Desmond Ayres is Ken’s forty-two year old son. He is a big man with broad, tense shoulders. His short brown hair is swept into a side parting over his high forehead. His blue eyes are small in his big face and his thin lips press tightly together in frustration. He dresses casually wearing the open collar of his beige shirt over the collar of his navy blue blazer. Desmond Ayres is played by Clive Hayward. AudioIntroductionMarch07 8 Desmond’s wife is Harriet. She is forty-three, with wild auburn hair that hangs over her shoulders. She has sharp features and is highly strung, with the constant manic look of a woman about to explode. Her piercing blue eyes fix others with a disturbing stare as her shoulders tense and she nervously claws at her own arms. She is rather frumpy, wearing an open, knee-length woollen grey cardigan over a purple open necked top. Her rust coloured skirt falls to the top of her heavy leather slip on shoes. Deborah Maclaren plays Harriet. Cliff McCracken has come into the business indirectly, through Jack, who is his brother. Cliff is forty years old and is played by Jonty Stephens. He is tall and gangly with an oval face and bald head. What’s left of his hair, around the sides and back, is brown. Cliff has a hangdog expression giving his blue eyes a forlorn, childlike quality. He stands, hands hanging by his side, unflummoxed by situations that would disturb others, calmly accepting his lot in life. When we first meet him he is dressed smartly in a suit with a collar and tie, but later, in casual clothes, he wears a garish mix, the yellow collar of a polo shirt, peeking over his short sleeved pullover, patterned with large beige and orange diamonds. A gold watch glitters at his wrist and he sets off his blue denims with white trainers. Cliff’s wife, Anita, is thirty-six. She is slim and glamorous, dressing in expensive fashionable clothes. Her party dress, when we first meet her, is white taffeta, sparkling with little gems, with a matching bolero jacket. She swings her hips as she walks, fully confident of her relationship with Cliff, as well as her own sexuality. Her dark brown hair is cut close to the nape of her slender neck and swept over her forehead in a side parting. Her make up is painted on heavily - her eyes are darkly mascarered, red blusher highlights her cheek bones and matching lipstick gives her a full pout. Later she wears a silk purple blouse with short, puffed sleeves and a grey, knee length pencil skirt with a wide silver belt. Finally she dons a black halter neck cocktail dress that sparkles in the light. Anita is played by Josie Walker. AudioIntroductionMarch07 9 Outside of the family, Anita has several ‘diversions’ in the shape of the Rivetti Brothers. All played by Eliot Giuralarocca. They are all tall and slim with black hair in varying degrees of baldness. Uberto has long shoulder length hair tied back in a ponytail. He dresses smartly in a suit with a white shirt collar peeping over the jacket. Giorgio Also has long hair, but it hangs loose over his shoulders and he wears ripped jeans and a beige shirt. The third brother, Orlando, is dressed in a beige shirt, with the top buttons open, showing the neckline of a red t-shirt underneath and a gold chain round his neck. His trousers are blue cotton slacks. His hair is cut short and swept back over his head. He has a thick wide moustache Caught, literally with his trousers down, brother four, Vicenza, is clean-shaven. His hair is greased back over his head. He wears a leather-studded dog collar round his neck and wire rimmed spectacles. He slips on a navy blue silk dressing gown beneath which his fishnet stockinged legs are revealed. Finally there is Lotario, dressed smartly in a grey suit with a white shirt and red tie. The final character, Benedict Hough (Huff) is a tall, thin, man in his late forties. His neatly cut fair hair is swept into a side parting. He fawns, creepily, smiling tight-lipped, wearing a practical, warm grey anorak over a grey shirt and matching tie. His cotton slacks, too, are grey. His eyes are bright blue, with a glint of avarice behind the apparent warmth of their steady gaze. His clean-shaven face has a ruddy complexion, making him appear freshly scrubbed. Benedict Hough is played by David Holt AudioIntroductionMarch07 10 Section 3. Cast and production credits Ken Ayres Ian Lindsay Yvonne Cherith Mellor Jack McCracken is played by Michael Garner Poppy, his wife, by Barbara Wilshire Their daughters : Samantha Zoë Thorne Tina Claire Parrish Tina’s husband Roy Nathan Amzi Desmond Ayres Clive Hayward Desmond’s wife Harriet Deborah McClaren Cliff McCracken Jonty Stephens Cliff’s wife Anita Josie Walker Benedict Hough David Holt Lotario Rivetti and his brothers Eliot Guiralarocca. The printed programme credits the other Rivetti brothers, using anagrams of the actor’s name. Uberto Carlo Agouti El Rica Orlando Craig Liota-Lorceau Vicenzo Eric Rigatua La Loco Giorgio Roger A Colliatucia The production was designed by Janet Bird The lighting designer was Tim Maskell And the Director Tim Luscombe This is the end of the introduction to A Small Family Business at The Watford Palace Theatre. AudioIntroductionMarch07 11 You can receive a copy of the free Vocaleyes Newsletter with full details on all our work by calling us on 020 7375 1043 or by following the links on the Vocaleyes accessible website. The Newsletter is available in print, Braille, on tape or via e-mail. Vocaleyes is a charity funded by Arts Council England.