Sisterly Feelings: Synopsis

Cast: 7 male / 4 female
Running time (approximate): To be confirmed
Acting edition: Published by Samuel French

Sisterly Feelings is comprised of four scenes, the first and last of which are the same. There are two different versions of the middle two scenes, the first choice of scene is decided by the flip of a coin at the end of the first scene. The second alternate scene is decided by the actors themselves during the performance. The following synopsis is by Ian Watson from his book Conversations With Ayckbourn.

Following the funeral of his wife, Ralph brings his family to a favourite spot on Pendon Common. With him are his two daughters, Abigail and Dorcas - trailing businessman husband Patrick and radical poet boyfriend Stafford respectively; his student son, Melvyn - with his fiancée Brenda and her brother Simon, and his brother-in-law, Detective Inspector Len, with his wife Rita. Both Abigail and Dorcas are attracted to the bronzed and athletic Simon. When Patrick has to leave prematurely to attend a business meeting, the rest are left with insufficient cars to get them all home. Either Abigail or Dorcas will have to walk home with Simon. They toss a coin and the loser goes home by car.

Scene 2 is a picnic four months later. Responsible for the arrangements of the picnic is whichever daughter lost the toss in Scene 1. The other daughter arrives at the picnic by bicycle, accompanied by Simon, and the proceedings are disturbed by the unexpected presence at the picnic of the husband / boyfriend whom Simon is currently displacing. The picnic is curtailed by a rainstorm, at which point the daughter accompanying Simon has to decide whether to remain with him - and face a soaking bike ride - or to return to her original partner.

On her decision rests the choice of a third scene: either a proposed romantic night under canvas with Simon and Abigail (which goes badly awry, thanks to vigilante patrolling by policeman Len), or the annual cross-country derby (which equally goes badly awry), in which Simon challenges the police champion. Meanwhile, Melvyn has failed his exams to become a doctor and has made Brenda pregnant.

By the beginning of Scene 4, depending on which version of the work has been played, Simon has enjoyed the favours of either Abigail or Dorcas, or of both in either order. Scene 4 follows Melvyn's wedding to Brenda, as the family again gathers on the common to humour Ralph, who came here with his bride on his wedding day. Abigail and Dorcas are back with the partners they started with in Scene 1, aware, perhaps of the arbitrariness of the decisions they have taken to change the course of their lives. Simon is an embarrassed best man.
(Synopsis from Ian Watson's Conversation With Ayckbourn)

Alan Ayckbourn's programme note concerning the structure of Sisterly Feelings
In the normal course of events, during a performance of Sisterly Feelings, you’ll be watching a sequence of scenes selected from the two scripts, Abigail and Dorcas, which comprise the play.
Since the decisions as to how the evening proceeds are made actually on stage, partly by chance and partly by the performers during the action, no one at the outset (least of all myself) can predict with certainty which of the four possible permutations will be played.
I can, with reasonable confidence though, expect a selection to be made from:-

Scene 1 - Prologue
Scene 2 - Abigail’s Picnic or Dorcas’s Picnic
Scene 3 - A Day at the Races or A Night under Canvas
Scene 4 - Footnote

Whatever it is you see, I hope you will enjoy it.

Copyright: Ian Watson / Alan Ayckbourn. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.