Alan Ayckbourn’s work as a dramatist hasn’t proved an easy fit with cinema; then again, would you give Michael Winner the chance to make a film version of a cherished project? Winner’s gift for comedy in the 1960’s was substantial, but his touch eluded him after sinking into the mire of Death Wish sequels, and although this is probably the best film of his last two decades as a film-maker, that’s largely because of Ayckbourn’s wordplay and the cast assembled here. The argument between Winner and Ayckborn have been detailed elsewhere; the result is that a clever back-stager about a Scarborough theatre company attempting to stage John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera has been broadened with an unfaithful emphasis on sex. Jeremy Irons is Guy, the businessman who gets involved with the tyrannical director Dafydd (Anthony Hopkins), and ends up sleeping with his wife (Prunella Scales) and the wife of another man; Gareth Hunt and Jenny Seagrove are the swinging couple. The cast are dotted with recognisable thespians, from Richard Briers to Lionel Jeffries, and there are sections of dialogue which feel like Winner hasn’t quite managed to ruin them; the initial sparring between Guy and Dafydd works well, and Irons and Hopkins can’t be accused of phoning in their performances. The picture of provincial British life in the 1980’s is pretty horrible, and that’s very much on the director; the side-lining of modish female talent (Patsy Kensit, Alexandra Pigg) indicates the male-dominance here, and the rampant egotism of an arrogant director who failed to transform material that didn’t need much transforming.