Communicating Doors

Original London West End Production with Julia McKenzie / Angela Thorne 1995

London Revival (Menier Chocolate Factory) with Imogen Stubbs 2015

Comedy-thriller by Alan Ayckbourn. Ever stayed in a hotel room with one of those communicating doors? Always frustratingly locked but presumably connecting your room to the one next door. Or does it? Ms Poopay Dayseer, fleeing for her life, manages to get one such door open only to find herself back where she started from. Or is she? For things are no longer quite the same. Time appears to have changed. Where is she? More puzzling, when is she? And more importantly than any of this, how long will it be before the man who threatened her life catches up with her?

Alan Ayckbourn's West End theatre plays include Absent Friends, Absurd Person Singular, Bedroom Farce, A Chorus of Disapproval, The Divide, How The Other Half Loves, The Norman Conquests, Relatively Speaking and Woman in Mind.

Original London West End Production with Julia McKenzie / Angela Thorne 1995

Previewed 2 August 1995, Opened 7 August 1995, Closed 6 January 1996 at the Gielgud Theatre
Transferred 29 January 1996, Closed 27 July 1996 at the Savoy Theatre

The cast at the Gielgud Theatre featured Julia McKenzie as 'Ruella' with Ken Bones as 'Julian', Adie Allen as 'Poopay', Laurence Kennedy as 'Reece', John Arthur as 'Harold' and Sara Markland as 'Jessica'.

The cast at the Savoy Theatre featured Angela Thorne as 'Ruella' with Ken Bones as 'Julian', Jane Slavin as 'Poopay', Laurence Kennedy as 'Reece', John Arthur as 'Harold' and Eleanor Tremain as 'Jessica'

Directed Alan Ayckbourn with sets by Roger Glossop, costumes by Christine Wall, lighting by Mick Hughes, music by John Pattison and sound by John A Leonard.

"The piece is very Ayckbournian and not just in its structural tricksiness. You can tell it's by the author of Woman in Mind from the bias of its sympathies. After all, one course of action open to Ruella would be to confront her husband's younger self with the damning document of his life-to-come (acting as benign witch to his Macbeth) in the hope of effecting some change of heart. Instead, she instinctively appeals to Jessica and, gripping hands across the years, the trio of females eventually become a literal image of women pulling together in the rather crude body-over-balcony scene... In a performance of great, unassuming skill, Julia McKenzie is not prevented by the hectic pace and plottiness from giving valuable hints of Ruella's emotional hurt and depth, while Adie Allen's marvellous Poopay progresses, in the author's production, from brash caricature to vulnerable girl, making the engineered optimism of the close feel genuinely earned." The Independent

"Communicating Doors is either evidence that the sage of Scarborough is going soft in the head or, as I prefer to think, a highly enjoyable exercise in wishful fun. It is a bit like J.B. Priestley's Dangerous Corner, where a character is given a glimpse of a catastrophic future and avoids it by steering a party conversation down non-destructive paths. Here, too, choice seems to be possible and time a friend. People can even fulfil that popular fantasy: returning to the past to adjust the present and future... Roger Glossop's hotel room spends 40 years not changing, which seems true to life. If there is a problem, it is that the plot requires the women to take too much time convincing each other of what we already know. But with the help of John Pattison's mood-music and his own skill at bouncing audiences into believing the unbelievable, Ayckbourn contrives to provide amusement, tension and, by the end, an upbeat feel." The Times

"The master playwright Alan Ayckbourn's answer to Dr Who and co is a fierce looking hooker with a bagful of bondage gear in 2014. Played with relish by shapely Adie Allen in sexy black rubber, she wields not a whip but a pen to record an elderly client's death-bed confession. She is then sent on a bewildering journey back through three decades to prevent two murders. Communicating Doors is Ayckbourn's 46th play and it looks as if he has finally lost the plot. It takes so long to work out exactly what is going on, the few laughs are in danger of being missed. Even the splendid Julia McKenzie as a doomed wife trying to alter the course of her marital history fails to save whatever day it is. Ayckbourn tries to blend suspense with laughs - Hitchcock with Hancock so to speak. But he is too clever by half. He opens one door too many and ends up disappearing up his own back passage." The Daily Mirror

"Like a manic conjurer, Alan Ayckbourn keeps pulling ever more rabbits out of the hat. And Communicating Doors, his 46th play, manages to take us by surprise by being a mixture of pastiche Psycho and time-warp comedy that optimistically suggests that, if only we could foresee the future, we could change it... What we should be grateful for is that his invention is still unflagging and that he knows how to exploit the theatre. As always, he directs his own work with great elan... The acting is also impeccable. Julia McKenzie endows Ruella with just the right mix of girl-guide brio and wan ruefulness... Adie Allen as the dominatrix suggests that, underneath the leather gear, there is an orphan yearning to be mothered. The men, of course, are either evil or ineffectual, but Ken Bones plays the killer like a mix of Valentine Dyall and Anthony Perkins, while John Arthur lends the hotel security chief a look of bemused fluster. Lately, Ayckbourn's plays have not always found favour in the West End. But this one certainly deserves to draw the town." The Guardian

Communicating Doors in London at the Gielgud Theatre previewed from 2 August 1995, opened on 7 August 1995 and closed on 6 January 1996, transferred to the Savoy Theatre from 29 January 1996 and closed on 27 July 1996

London Revival with Imogen Stubbs 2015

Previewed 7 May 2015, Opened 13 May 2015, Closed 27 June 2015 at the Menier Chocolate Factory

The cast featured Imogen Stubbs as 'Ruella' with David Bamber as 'Julian', Rachel Tucker as 'Poopay', Robert Portal as 'Reece', Matthew Cottle as 'Harold' and Lucy Briggs-Owen as 'Jessica'. Directed by Lindsay Posner with designs by Richard Kent, lighting by Jason Taylor, music by Matthew Scott and sound by Davy Ogilivy.

"A terrifically fun fast paced production of Alan Ayckbourn's dark comic farce. A dominatrix accidentally finds herself with a corrupt tycoon client who wants to confess his sins before his ill health sends him to his grave. The wrong place at the wrong time this Miss Whiplash flees a murderous henchman through a connecting door in his hotel room and finds it's a time travel portal. David Bamber is suitably menacing as evil businessman Julian while Imogen Stubbs is super as second wife Ruella trying to avoid her and her predecessor - frothy fun socialite Jessica, played by Lucy Briggs Owen - murders. Rachel Tucker's dominatrix Poopay at times verges on irritating but the play has a star performance in Matthew Cottle as the dependable hotel detective Harold. Fun and fizzy this attention grabbing production makes time fly by." The Sunday Mirror

"Alan Ayckbourn described his 1994 play Communicating Doors as a comedy-thriller. No one else would, if Lindsay Posner's underpowered revival is anything to go by. As short of laughs as it is of thrills, it is a long, suspense-free, horror-free evening... If you were feeling generous, you might say it's Sliding Doors meets Psycho. Buried within is the idea that strong women in jeopardy can join forces, save themselves and one another and, indeed, defy their fates. But in Posner's tone-deaf, heavy-handed, so-whattish production, that bit has disappeared down the bidet's plughole." The Mail on Sunday

"Alan Ayckbourn confesses himself 'rather mystified' that he is viewed as a comic dramatist, and certainly 1994's Communicating Doors teeters right on the brink of not being funny, if gripping from start to finish. A coarse, kind-hearted prostitute, Poopay (as in poupee, doll), is summoned to the sixth-floor suite of a swanky London hotel, inhabited by an old, dying, once-rapacious financier called Reece Wells. Poopay wonders what on earth she's supposed to do to him without killing him. But it turns out that Reece only wants her to witness a confession he has written... It becomes a lot more sinister with the appearance of Julian, Reece's manservant, played with relish by David Bamber. You can't quite put your finger on it, but you wouldn't be entirely surprised if he turned out to have half a dozen dead Boy Scouts in his cellar... It's an elegant, feminist-tinged fable about female solidarity triumphing over male beastliness, directed with perfect polish by Lindsay Posner." The Sunday Times

Communicating Doors in London at the Menier Chocolate Factory previewed from 7 May 2015, opened on 13 May 2015 and closed on 27 June 2015