Relatively Speaking: Scene

This page reproduces a scene from the play offering an insight into and a taste of the work. The dialogue is reproduced in the style of the original including grammatical choices / errors.
For Relatively Speaking, the final page of the original production of the play at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, in 1965 - called Meet My Father - is reproduced next to the climax of the play as it is known today.

Meet My Father (act II, scene 2)
A garden

Sheila: ’Bye.
Philip: Goodbye.
(Pause)
Sheila: Oh they are a sweet couple. I‘m quite taken with them. Aren't you ?
Philip: Entranced.
Sheila: Quite wrong for each other of course. Absolutely and utterly. It's almost certain to be a disastrous marriage but it will be very nice for them while it lasts. (Philip sits down) Are you all right?
Philip: Fine.
Sheila: You look tired.
Philip: Really? I wonder why that is?
Sheila: (picking up bedroom slippers) Look what turned up again - your slippers. Guess where they were? Under the bed all the time. Funny how things have a habit of turning up... Do you want to put them on - rest your feet?
(She puts slippers down beside him. Philip stares at them)
Philip: Those aren't mine.
Sheila: Oh dear.
Philip: What?
Sheila: I was just wondering how that poor boy was going to make out.
Philip: That's his problem. (Pause) I gather - that you gathered - from all that - the general - gist of things?
Sheila: Just a little gist - yes.
Philip: Yes.
Sheila: I'll make a nice cup of tea, shall I?
(Sheila moves to the house. Pauses and turns)
Sheila: I’ll tell you one thing though, I'm awfully glad we haven't got a daughter. She'd be a terrible handful, wouldn't she?
Philip: Yes. You're right there. She would.

END
Relatively Speaking (act II, scene 2)
A garden

Sheila: 'Bye.
Philip: Goodbye.
(Pause)
Sheila: Quite wrong for each other of course. It'll be a disastrous marriage but great fun for them while it lasts.
Philip: I gather you've gathered the general gist of things.
Sheila: Just a little gist - yes. I don't think there's any need to go to the Coopers now, is there?
Philip: No. (He goes through the gate)
Sheila: No. (She starts putting plates and glasses on the tray) We'll have tea here, then. I'll tell you one thing, though. I'm awfully glad we haven't got a daughter, she'd be a terrible handful, wouldn't she?
Philip: Yes, you're right there. She would. (He catches sight of the slippers in the urn. He picks them out of the urn and comes back through the gate) Sheila! Sheila! What are these doing here?
Sheila: I don't know, darling. You really ought to look after your things more carefully.
Philip: My things? They aren't mine.
Sheila: Of course they're yours. I bought them for you.
Philip: No, they're not. They look a bit like them-same tartan, same sort of shape and texture.
Sheila: Well then - they're yours.
Philip: No, they're not-the lining's different.
Sheila: Uh? (She takes a slipper from him)
Philip: Mine were red.
(Sheila examines the lining of the slipper)
Sheila: So they were. Oh dear.
Philip: What?
Sheila: I was just wondering how that poor boy was going to make out.
Philip: Never mind about that. (He takes a slipper from her) Whose are these?
Sheila: Wouldn't you like to know?
(Sheila claps her hands delightedly and moves on to the terrace, to go out through the DS door, leaving Philip gazing at the slippers, dumbfounded)

END

Notes

When Meet My Father premiered at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, in 1965, it was famously in a much reduced form. The director - and Alan Ayckbourn’s mentor - Stephen Joseph had taken the script and then, apparently at random, ditched pages en masse from it. As performed, it was considerably different to the play, Relatively Speaking, we know today.
One of the unedited aspects of the original production though was the climax, performed as written and reproduced above (left hand column). It is notably different to the play we know today with no final twist and the issue of the mysterious slippers all but forgotten. It is actually, considering all that has gone before, quite a soft ending to the play.
When the producer Peter Bridge optioned
Meet My Father for the West End (having been given the original uncut script by Alan rather than Stephen Joseph’s edited version), Alan was unhappy with the climax (and the first scene) and made continuous changes to both prior to the production and during its pre-West End tour in 1967.
Still unhappy with the final scene, one of Peter Bridge’s employees Tom Erhardt suggested to Alan that the play should return to where it began with the slippers. Inspired, Alan altered the play to the climax we know today and which perfectly rounds off the play. Tom would go on to play a huge part in Alan’s life eventually becoming his agent following the death of Margaret ‘Peggy’ Ramsay in 1991.
The altered script gives the play a final punch and twist - reasserting the possibility in Philip’s mind that Sheila might be having an affair whilst suggesting to Sheila and the audience, Ginny has been having multiple affairs that neither Philip, Greg nor the audience have been made privy to. It also gives an early dark edge to an otherwise light play as the apparently throw-away line “I was just wondering how that poor boy was going to make out” is the indicator that Ginny and Greg’s relationship will neither be stable nor long-term and Ginny is likely to move onto someone else (or have another affair) in the not too distant future. It’s a small foretaste of the darkness which would soon begin to permeate so much of the playwright’s work.
On a lighter note, it also leaves the play in that hands of Sheila, who has turned the tables completely on Philip, having also been the only person to figure out just what was going on.

The scene reproduced on this page (both transcription and the actual page) is copyright of Alan Ayckbourn and should not be reproduced in any format without the permission of the copyright holder. All other material is copyright of Simon Murgatroyd and should not be reproduced without permission.

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The Relatively Speaking section of Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website is sponsored by Michael T. Mooney