Nick Le Mesurier reviews UpDownSizing, written and performed by Ginny Davis at Wellesbourne Village Hall
Home is where the heart is. It is also the place where the children come back to; bringing their problems, their hopes and their futures, and where they seek their most needed solutions. It is a place that exists in the mind and in the heart as much as it does in bricks and mortar.
Ginny Davis’s new one-woman show, the sixth in the Ruth Rich saga that has won her five-star reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe, explores a dilemma that faces many property-owning parents of middle age. Faced with the prospect of houses that are too large for them now the children have gone, the attractions of downsizing are obvious. So Ruth and Husband look forward to a change of scene. But wait: children are still children, no matter how old they are, and sometimes they need help. They too need homes, and there are new generations on the horizon. Suddenly the old place doesn’t seem so large. In fact, is it large enough?
In this endearing look at middle-class family life, Ginny Davis plays no fewer than nine characters, switching seamlessly between Ruth, her son Fred, potential daughter-in-law Eva, potential son-in-law Tim, her long-suffering husband, and many others. Keeping watch in the background and acting the Chorus is her mother, a disembodied voice from the grave, gently reminding Ruth of her maternal duties. And then there’s Steve, the love of daughter Ellie’s life, who eats everything and throws up at every opportunity. He may be only a dog but he’s part of the family.
It is of course up to Ruth to sort things out, as it usually is for mothers. UpDownSizing takes an affectionate and very funny look at the day-to-day, but nonetheless real and serious, problems of life within a large fairly well-to-do family.
On the night I saw it another dimension to the play emerged. Most of the audience in Ginny’s home village of Wellesbourne where it was performed were, I suspect, known to each other and to the playwright, and in their recognition of the scenes as they played out before them it became something of a play within a play. This was their play, told from a place where they belong.
There are few playwrights who take the subject of middle-class life and treat it seriously. Alan Ayckbourn springs to mind. Ginny Davis treats her subject with affection but without pretension, sentimentality or scorn. In or out of its home setting, this is a play that should add to her growing collection of accolades.
* The play is next staged on Wednesday November 28. Visit https://updownsizing.eventbrite.co.uk or call 01789 842832 to book.