Review by Anne Storey

„A Small Family Business“, Alan Ayckbourn

Performed by The EDG 19 on 26 May 2010

Among the Alan Ayckbourn quotes following the completion of his 32nd play, A Small Family Business, was the following:  “It’s the first time anyone has died in a play of mine. It’s a fairly dark theme – honesty. It was sparked by the fact that everyone has their own idea of what honesty is.” (Sunday Express, 24 May 1987) Just how the master playwright deftly crafted this “dark theme” as a comedy is a tribute to his genius.

Reading the reviews of major performances of this masterpiece, I wondered: Can The EDG 19 do it justice?  On Wednesday, 26 May, the answer was clear:  Yes it can!

The audience was treated to an evening showcasing the considerable energies of these young actors and others indispensable to staging such a performance. With impressive creativity, one basic stage set was adapted to represent four different houses. This worked quite well, and indeed the programme explanation would not have been necessary.

As a seasoned theater-goer throughout my years in New York, I consistently sought out not only the “off Broadway” but preferably the “off-off Broadway” productions. That was real theater, not financed by slick producers and featuring lavish sets but performed by locals whose hearts were in it and who could be very good indeed.

And so it was at Gatterburggasse 14. Christine Zeiler and her troupe of young actors proved yet again to an enthusiastic audience that an English-language production can absolutely be pulled off very impressively by non-native speakers. To be frank, this was not entirely unexpected, since I had seen last year what they were capable of (to wit, Bottom’s Dream).

Johannes Zemanek, who demonstrated good stage presence in his leading role of Jack McCracken, faced quite a challenge but mastered his many lines to an impressive extent. Rosi Krawarik, as Jack’s wife Poppy, was well cast and made her delivery in impeccable English. Ivana Jularic is a wonderfully sullen and indolent Samantha, opposite the cool Carina Borst in the role of Tina, the “good” daughter. Roy Ruston, Tina’s husband, was nicely played by a young Hugh Grant. Oh wait! His name turns out to be Paul Elsbacher.

Sophie Friedrich excelled as the agitated Yvonne, whose sole object of affection is her dog Peggy. Jack’s brother-in-law Desmond, the long-suffering husband of Yvonne and whose principal interest is the kitchen, is ably played by Danny Kurt. A talented Nadja Ragendorfer was admirable as Anita, wife of the high-living Cliff (well played by Martin Datler). Lukas Streinzer and Bernadette Scheiber—both memorable from Bottom’s Dream—were convincing as Ken Ayres and Yvonne Doggett.

Special mention is merited for the expressive Veronika Doblhoff-Dier as the sleazy private detective Benedict Hough, and for the Italian-speaking Lukas Weber in his five roles of the Rivetti brothers.

What does The EDG 19 have in store for us next? This exciting selection suggests that there may well be something to look forward to.

Anne Storey