BBC Radio 4 Extra, 21 April 2013
Inspired by Hitchcock's immortal
Strangers on a Train (1951), The Revenger's Comedies begins with a chance meeting between Henry Bell (Jon
Strickland) and Karen (Lia Williams) on a dark night in London. Both try and fail to commit suicide; and it soon transpires
that both are down on their luck. Henry has been fired from his job, while Karen has been jilted by her lover. During
a rollicking night spent commuting from London to Karen's stately home in Dorset, they come up with a plan to take revenge
on their enemies: Karen will kill Henry's ex-boss, while Henry will kill Karen's rival in love.
Unfortunately things do not quite go according to plan. Karen mounts a successful campaign
to kill Henry's boss Bruce (Geoff Shankley), but Henry ends up falling in love with Karen's rival Imogen (Barbara Flynn). Karen
is incensed, and vows to take revenge on her one-time partner.
Gordon House's 1995 World Service Drama production revisits familiar Ayckbourn territory, as the author takes pot-shots
at priapic men, pliant women, the feckless upper class, suburban mores and class-consciousness. Some of the targets
seem wearyingly familiar (the boss and his secretary scenario formed the basis for many sex farces of the 1960s and 1970s),
but nonetheless The Revenger's Comedies makes some valid points about the ways in which people remain blissfully
indifferent to the feelings of those around them as they pursue both professional and amatory success. Ayckbourn has
always been adept at skewering middle-class preoccupations in the home as well as the office.
There was much to admire
in Gordon House's production. Jon Strickland nice-but-dim Henry was contrasted with Lia Williams' protean performance as Karen.
She could assume any role she wished - from an upper-class lady to a down-at-heel secretary - so long as it suited her purpose.
Bruce Tick never really had a chance to survive. Barbara Flynn's Imogen came across as a sympathetic person; someone
who had never experienced a passionate romance in her life, and hence glad of Henry's attentions.