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the Complete Review
the complete review - drama

Damsels in Distress

Alan Ayckbourn

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To purchase Damsels in Distress

Title: Damsels in Distress
Author: Alan Ayckbourn
Genre: Drama
Written: 2001
Length: 309 pages
Availability: Damsels in Distress - US
Damsels in Distress - UK
Damsels in Distress - Canada

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Our Assessment:

B+ : solid, fun entertainment -- but hardly connected (i.e. hardly a trilogy)

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Daily Telegraph . 9/9/2002 Charles Spencer
The Guardian . 11/9/2001 Michael Billington
The Guardian . 9/9/2002 Michael Billington
The Independent . 12/9/2002 Paul Taylor
The Independent . 15/9/2002 Kate Bassett
New Statesman . 23/9/2002 Sheridan Morley
The Spectator . 14/9/2002 Patrick Carnegy
The Times . 9/9/2002 Benedict Nightingale
TLS . 20/9/2002 Russell Davies

  Review Consensus:

  Uneven, but quite a bit to commend

  From the Reviews:
  • "Tom Stoppard's The Coast of Utopia proved a punishing endurance test, Alan Ayckbourn's ostensibly more modest offering provides far greater entertainment value. (...) The greatest pleasure of the trilogy is the wonderful versatility of the seven-strong company. This is a crash course in the joys of rep, and as a director Ayckbourn invariably brings out the best in his actors. This is just as well, because the quality of his writing is uneven." - Charles Spencer, Daily Telegraph

  • "The trilogy has now been unveiled and several things become clear: that the plays get richer as they go along, that Ayckbourn is lately both narrative-driven and morally concerned, and that our most famous theatrical innovator is really a closet movie buff.(....) But the trilogy as a whole is far more than a tribute to the movies. It shows Ayckbourn moving beyond his familiar terrain of suburban angst to deal with metropolitan madness and moral confusion. We live, he implies, in a vicious, gain-driven society; but he also suggests it is possible to rise above it." - Michael Billington, The Guardian

  • "What links the three Alan Ayckbourn plays that make up Damsels in Distress ? Partly the fact that they are all set in the same London Docklands flat. But essentially they are about the nature of acting. Written for a seven-strong ensemble, they celebrate theatrical virtuosity while exploring the social hazards of role-playing." - Michael Billington, The Guardian

  • "Ayckbourn treats you to a vivid reminder of the pleasures of rep. The setting remains fixed, which throws into relief the versatility of the crack company of seven who play a different collection of characters in each piece. (...) If each play is (unlike those in the Stoppard trilogy) genuinely self-contained, there are also recurring preoccupations and stylistic tics. As the title indicates, the focus is on young women who are up against the ropes." - Paul Taylor, The Independent

  • "Fundamentally though, this "epic" event is little more than easy viewing, ploddingly crafted with no ingenious grand design and some frankly unbelievable plot twists. You may even feel compelled during the lunch and supper breaks to do something more mentally taxing -- ooh, say, a bit of window shopping." - Kate Bassett, The Independent

  • "As the overall title suggests, they all involve young women having troubles, mainly with males. Most of these characters are impelled to deceive, change their names, or camouflage themselves in order to achieve their ends." - Benedict Nightingale, The Times

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Damsels in Distress is, nominally, a trilogy, consisting of the plays GamePlan, FlatSpin, and RolePlay. Written and first performed in 2001, the only thing that really connects them is the apartment overlooking the Thames which is the setting for each.
       As Ayckbourn explains in his preface, he wanted to work with a theatre company again: not actors hired on a per-play basis, but rather the same actors doing different plays together. He got seven actors together, and wrote the first two plays for them; RolePlay was then added after FlatSpin opened.
       Clearly this use of the same company isn't mirrored in the text: one can imagine a particular actor or actress in the different parts, but it's really something one has to see. Nevertheless, the plays are a fine fit together. Arguably, many of Ayckbourn's plays have suffering and troubled women and foolish men in them, but here the basic issues and problems are similar enough to make for three different perspectives on a certain class of people getting by in contemporary England.
       FlatSpin is the weakest of the lot -- not bad, and amusing enough to hold one's attention, but unremarkable. The other two can certainly stand on their own and are quite enjoyable. The beginning of GamePlan has Ayckbourn in peak form; he can't sustain it, but (except perhaps for some of the unlikely occurrences) there are no glaring weaknesses here.

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Damsels in Distress: Reviews: Alan Ayckbourn: Other books by Alan Ayckbourn under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Drama under review

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About the Author:

       British playwright Alan Ayckbourn was born in 1939. He has written more than fifty plays.

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© 2004-2009 the complete review

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