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A Written Comparison between Just Between Ourselves and Between Mouthfuls

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Introduction

A Written Comparison between "Just Between Ourselves" and "Between Mouthfuls" In preparation for my acting assessment, I am playing the role of Dennis in "Just Between Ourselves" by Alan Ayckbourn. In order to research Ayckbourn's style and method, I have also looked at his "Confusions" collection and, in particular, the play "Between Mouthfuls". "Just Between Ourselves" is a comedy, set in late 70s England, following a dysfunctional married couple (Dennis and Vera) on their quest to sell a useless old car to an equally troubled pair (Neil and Pam). It is, however, a dark comedy which touches on many serious issues, such as mental and physical illness, and the constant tension and conflict between the ill-matched couples. "Between Mouthfuls" also depicts two couples - the wealthy, bossy, and slightly posh Donald and Emma Pierce, and the younger Martin and Polly Chalmers. It is set in a restaurant in 80s England, and during the course of the play we experience the conversations from the point of view of the waiter, who remains hilariously deadpan and emotionless, despite the increasingly violent confrontations amongst the couples. ...read more.

Middle

The genre of both plays is comedy, but the comedy in both emerges from rather dark situations, such as marriages falling apart and people's sanity or happiness crumbling into dust. In "Just Between Ourselves", Vera's clearly serious mental illness is laughed at by my character, prompting hilarity from the point of view of the audience. My character is not only hugely insensitive to his wife's feelings, but also seemingly oblivious to the severity of her condition. He continues to bully her in this way relentlessly throughout the play. Also, Neil is consistently belching, even though his "indigestion" seems to be more obviously a potentially life-threatening symptom. But instead of the normal worried reactions you'd expect from the people around him, all the others are amused or irritated, completely unaware of the dangerous state of health he could be in. Although nowhere near as dark as our play, "Between Mouthfuls" also touches on some serious issues, with the comedy coming from the irony that there has been adultery between the two couples, and the first person to pick up on this is the waiter who simply acts entirely normally and professionally as though he hasn't heard a thing. ...read more.

Conclusion

In Dennis's case, he is so self-obsessed and solipsistic, living in his own little world; that he doesn't even notice that his wife is completely losing her mind. In the case of Donald Pierce in "Between Mouthfuls", he commits adultery foolishly behind his watchful and suspicious wife's back, which results in a violent public outburst from her. Also significant is the way the plays are titled: "Just Between Ourselves" suggests that Ayckbourn is exploring a private and secret world, behind closed doors; looking into the pain and suffering of apparently ordinary middle-class suburban couples. "Between Mouthfuls" suggests he is exploring everyday life, but looking into the nooks and crannies of what is a normal situation; what really goes on in those everyday places? It shows that in a public meeting, like a restaurant, couples can no longer hide behind a TV set or a newspaper, but have to face each other and confront the truth between mouthfuls. By comparing these two plays, I have learnt about how Ayckbourn creates comic drama out of the lives of ordinary couples, and explores the plain beneath the apparently tranquil facade of suburban middle class life. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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