No Knowing at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough

Russell Dixon as Arthur and Jacqueline King as Elspeth

Russell Dixon as Arthur and Jacqueline King as Elspeth

There is a little gift for fans of Alan Ayckbourn waiting to be unwrapped at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough.

No Knowing is not the biggest of presents – it’s 90-minutes long and that includes the interval.

But big does not always been best – rather good things come in small packages.

There are many buttons and gizmos on this gift that keeps the audience interested and cheering long after the lights have gone up.

Marriage, secrets, relationships between parents and their children – and Christmas.

No Knowing opens at a party to celebrate the 40th wedding anniversary of Arthur and Elspeth – she makes a speech on the nature of marriage for a woman.

Quick change and the couple are sitting at the kitchen table eating tea – with nothing to say to each other.

He intends to disappear into his shed for a few hours on the computer and she is heading off to a wine bar with a friend.

Then their son arrives with a secret about his mum to impart to his dad.

I will not spoil the surprise by telling you what that secret is.

The second half opens with Arthur giving a speech at the party – about how he knows his wife better than anyone (and we now know the irony of the speech) and love and marriage.

Quick change and the couple are, again, sitting at the kitchen table eating tea with nothing to say to each other. This time enter the daughter with a secret about her dad to impart to her mum.

It is simple in device and construction but complicated in theme and emotion.

The dialogue is dazzlingly good and the observations of marriage and family relationships by turns heartbreakingly and side-splittingly true.

No Knowing stars Russell Dixon and Jacqueline King as Arthur and Elspeth, with Bill Champion and Laura Matthews as their son and daughter, Nigel and Alison.

The performances are brilliant all round.

This is a lovely little present, gift wrapped in quality paper and tied up neatly in a shiny bow.

No Knowing is on December 8, 9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 20, 21, 22 and December 23; and 3pm on December 8, 15, 17, 18, 22, 23 and Christmas Eve.

Tickets available and can be booked at the box office on 01723 370541 or via the website: www.sjt.uk.com