This is Alan Ayckbourn's 69th play in his own premiere production from the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough, and watching it you do wonder whether he will ever write another major play.
Based around an amateur writers' group, its cut-and-paste pastiche of various melodramatic styles itself has a flavour of amateur dramatics, for all the professionalism of the performers. There is enough of the old master's character observation and comic stagecraft - just - to make it entertaining enough, but it seems unlikely to hang around long in the memory alongside masterpieces like The Norman Conquests or A Small Family Business.
The play is set in the large dowdy house which middle-aged bachelor Arnold shares with his bedridden mother. He is hosting a meeting of the writers' group he chairs, which includes a young female journalist who churns out detective fiction, a lesbian farmer who would write romantic melodramas if she did not suffer from chronic writer's block, a disgruntled retired teacher who is writing a musical version of Pilgrim's Progress, one of his former pupils who writes children's stories, and a malapropist writer of conspiricist science-fiction.
An unsatisfactory meeting, and a slow and static first act, suggests that the members are making little headway. But after they leave, their various imaginations are supernaturally unleashed around the house and Arnold finds himself swept up in three dramas, set in different periods, which run in counterpoint.
The interleaving of these narratives must require some hair-raising costume changes but the intricacy is never really as funny as it ought to be, given the demands it makes on the actors. Ayckbourn completists will not want to miss it, though, and it's never less than polished, if undemanding, entertainment.
* Running time: Two hours, 35 minutes. Until Saturday.