If Alan Ayckbourn had not been a dramatist he could have made a fortune as an electrician.

His conception of Intimate Exchanges, a cycle of eight plays in 31 scenes, is a veritable Christmas tree of a circuit, connecting as it does the lives of the same characters through multiple life choices which have 16 different permutations.

A further idiosyncrasy is that all the parts are played by just two actors. Obviously, the Scarborough air has affected him.

I find myself drawn, intrigued, to Ayckbourn, not least because nearly all his characters remind me of people I know. In the case of Affairs in a Tent, the first of the Intimate Exchanges in this 60th birthday revival, the principals are Celia Teasdale, a headmaster's wife, and the gardener with whom she is infatuated, Lionel Hepplewick.

Quite why she should find him so fanciable is hard to fathom, since he behaves like Robin Askwith and talks like Arthur from On The Buses. But then, this is the Seventies.

The parts - all the parts - are handled by the wonderfully versatile Andrina Carroll and Ken Bradshaw, and the stage and TV director Alan Dossor maintains just the right distance from high farce.

The Playhouse needs a hit, after the critical mauling accorded its stylised production of Wuthering Heights (still running in the big Quarry Theatre) - and this, followed by two further Intimate Exchanges between now and mid-May, should do nicely.

David Behrens

Converted for the new archive on 30 June 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.