You know you’re in good hands when the curtain rises and the set gets a round of applause.*
Simon Higlett‘s well-dressed Victorian sitting room drew gasps of admiration from the crowd, possibly because it brought back distant memories although presumably not from the Eastern Europeans or possibly Russians behind the Whingers with sweets wrapped in old Eastern Bloc cellophane which had been designed to be LOUDER when crinkled than the sad cellophane of the decadent West . WE WILL BURY YOU IN OUR CELLOPHANE.
But we digress. Having grappled with the Glaswegian accents in Men Should Weep last week it was comforting for the Whingers to head in a southerly direction and have their ears caressed by Yorkshire tongues. Phil’s mother was born in York (Nunnery Lane, since you asked) and he was oop there only a few weeks ago so it almost felt like home to him, only without old underpants strewn everywhere.
When We Are Married is set in Cleckleywyke, Yorkshire in 1908. Three nouveau riche couples are celebrating their silver wedding anniversaries together. The Helliwells, the Soppitts and the Parkers all married in the same chapel on the same morning. They even had their photographs taken together and a photographer from the local newspaper is coming to recreate the moment 25 years on.
But ahead of him arrives the terrible news that the minister who conducted the service wasn’t authorised to do so and that these six pillars of the community have actually been living in sin. Will the couples grab an opportunity to marry the partners they’ve spent all those years with or will the news unravel their relationships?
Despite its three acts J.B.Priestley‘s 1938 comedy is over and done with in 2 hours 10 and thanks to an experienced, veteran cast and Christopher Luscombe’s breakneck direction which William-Morris-wallpapers ruthlessly over most of the cracks.
And what a joy. Rarely can the Garrick Theatre have seen quite such a cornucopia of senior comedy talent squashed onto one settee and one chaise longue.
Andrew – who hasn’t watched TV since 1986 – was in seventh heaven.
Happily everyone gets their big moment and, like the set, receives a round of applause for it. Phil felt he was back in his days as a regular at the Theatre Royal Brighton in the Seventies. Ashe takes a turn playing live on the piano, singing with Hudd who performs a crowd-pleasing drunken dance and a hilarious double take. Baron is rewarded on a literally smashing exit. Blake gets to give both an enjoyable dressing down and a dressing up as the only one accorded a costume change. Dotrice excels on the plush telling Rouse’s wonderfully bloviating husband exactly what she thinks of him. Lipman and Kelly are a terrific double act, particularly in the scene in which he dares to take a drink despite being forbidden to do so. And Jodie McNee (real life niece of Les Dennis) impresses big time as the lippy maid Ruby, putting her career at risk with the Whingers accolade as “a face to look out for”.
Add to all that an array of millinery, some decent wigs (seemingly uncredited) and an unseemly (by today’s standards) amount of cigar smoking on stage and you have an evening that simply flies by. Despite rumours to the contrary the Whingers do have mothers and this is definitely the show they’d take them to.
And the Whingers were put into such a good mood that there was nery a hint of fratchin’ in the Garrick Arms afterwards.
* You can see the set getting its applause here and hear the audience talking about, well, the set although the lady who had never seen one receiving a round before should be taken to the theatre more often.