Review: Alarms and Excursions, by Michael Frayn, Theatre Royal Brighton, until August 6

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WORK for a local paper now and you’ll find IT skills just as valuable – if not more so – than knowing where to put a semi-colon.

The more mature among us find that a tad difficult (we have to be taught by the youngsters) and that is exactly the dilemma explored by playwright Michael Frayn.

His Alarms and Excursions – a series of hilarious playlets – is currently running at Brighton’s Theatre Royal. The fact that technology stays a little ahead of us and we have to run to keep up is neatly skewered to the kitchen pin-board as the four-strong cast fall foul of smoke alarms, answerphones, cooker timers, ‘intelligent’ car key fobs and a Byzantine corkscrew.

One of the funniest sketches is a saucy stewardess’s realisation that the only way to attract attention to the airline safety demo is to remove more than your shark whistle.

Three short pieces had the audience doubled up with laughter.

In the first, when bleeping domestic equipment threatens the sanity of a dinner-party foursome the hostess finds the drawer full of ‘instructions,’ most outliving the equipment they came with.

The second shows the same foursome (they worked the corkscrew after all) go through the traumas of leaving the dinner party in the small hours....walking out of the door, back into the house for more mwaah mwaah cheek kisses, out again, in again to find the dawdling partner exchanging juicy gossip.

The third was wincingly memorable – listening to speeches at a company do, shaking hands and applauding whilst juggling wine glass, plate and company brochures. In very high heels of course.

The foursome: Robert Daws, Belinda Lang, Aden Gillett and Serena Evans were superb and switched accents from estuary via Edinburgh to received pronunciation plus all the social nuances of the English class system that accompanied them.

Describing his playlets Michael Frayn said: “I love gadgets but my love is not returned.

“When they don’t do what they are supposed to do, I become extremely angry.

“After all they don’t have any feelings. They’re not like human beings whom you have to be polite to and whose hurt pride you have to repair.”

Alarms and Excursions is showing at the Theatre Royal until August 6.

If you’ve ever plucked the batteries from a smoke alarm on the blink, this is for you.