It’s a family weekend – of course there are fisticuffs!” joked Philip Wilson.
The 40-year-old has just divulged there’s a fight director coming in to take the cast members of The Norman Conquests through their paces at the Liverpool Playhouse.
Alan Ayckbourn’s trilogy of plays – Table Manners, Living Together and Round and Round the Garden – is domestic disharmony writ in large and glorious script.
And Philip is the man tasked with bringing them all to life at the Playhouse this month.
“I envy and am in amazement at Alan Ayckbourn’s brain really,” he said. “It’s three plays set in three different rooms – well, two rooms and then the garden – across the weekend.
“And, rather brilliantly, you can see any of the plays, and if you see more than one you can see them in any order, but if you do see all three it turns into a much richer event.”
The complex scheduling of the plays means the enthusiastic (or curious) can see them all either across the run or in one sitting – give or take meal breaks – on five ‘trilogy days’ during the run.
It’s quite a task for the director and his cast of six who all appear in each separate play.
Rather like conducting an orchestra perhaps?
Philip added: “The conducting image is a good one. Or it’s more like plate spinning really!
“It’s in no way complicated, but it is quite intricate. A lot happens, and certainly for an audience it all unfolds rather beautifully.”
The Norman of the title is played by Philip Cumbus, with whom Philip previously worked during a four-year tenure as artistic director at the Salisbury Playhouse.
He’s also directed three of the others, including Emily Pithon, who Liverpool audiences may recall from Tartuffe.
The cast also includes Laura Howard (Cully in Midsomer Murders) and Heartbeat’s Sarah Tansey.
This is Philip’s fourth time directing at the Playhouse – he previously helmed a Noël Coward double bill, Dr Faustus and, in 2007, Noises Off.
That was shortly before he took up his post at Salisbury.
He added: “I guess I was inspired by watching the energy and enthusiasm and creativity of Gemma (Bodinetz, Liverpool Playhouse’s artistic director) and Deborah (Aydon – executive director), and a couple of the other artistic directors whose theatres I was working in.”
The director, who was born near Frodsham – his father was ‘part of the team that built the M56’ – is now freelance again and raring to go with The Norman Conquests.
So what it is that makes Ayckbourn such a continued crowd-pleaser?
Philip said: “His plays are very funny, but I think they’re funny because he observes human life in an incredibly detailed and very truthful way.
“And, actually, I can’t say it’s all funny. The humour often arises from people who are perhaps concerned their marriages aren’t the best.
“The main plot arc is that Norman, who is married to Ruth, has arranged to have a weekend away with Annie, who is his sister-in-law. It’s a dirty weekend really.
“It’s all about people who have made a set of choices and are then reassessing those choices.
“And much of the consequences are very funny, but I think they’re funny because they’re true. It’s not slapstick.
“Ayckbourn is this wonderful observer of human life in all its detail.”
The Norman Conquests is at the Playhouse from May 25 to June 23. Trilogy days are June 2, 7, 9, 16 and 23. Call 0151 709 4776 or visit www.everymanplayhouse.com.