"When We Are Married" by J.B. Priestley
Nottingham Lace Market Theatre.
J.B. Priestley is one of our finest Northern playwrights and dramatists and "When We Are married" is one of his finest and most comical of his plays.
Three very respectable couples, old friends, were all married on the same day twenty five years previously, gather at the Helliwells’ home to celebrate their silver anniversary. They discover they are not legally married, thanks to Gerald Frobes, an organist, and even worse, a Southern man, Each couple initially react with Victorian horror – what will the neighbors think? – and all three couples find themselves re-evaluating their marriages; Hovering closely over the proceedings is the Yorkshire Argus' alcohol-soaked photographer, Henry Ormonroyd, keen to record the evening's events for posterity, and a wickedly destructive housekeeper, Mrs Northrop, who is hoping to use the couples' mortification to her own advantage.
This particular selection of actors are perfect in their characterizations of the subjects of Priestley's 1938 period farce. The three grooms, Alderman Helliwell (John Anthony), Councillor Parker (Fraser Wanless) and Herbert Soppitt (Roger Watson) are all wonderful in their prospective roles as the grooms who discover that, just for a moment, they may be free of the shackles of matrimony, which gives all three the chance to take stock of their lives.
The brides Maria Helliwell (Jackie Dunn), Annie Parker (Janice White) and Clara Soppitt (Linda Croston) are equally mesmerising in their roles. All six have some wonderful comic lines and some brilliantly sharp put downs for their men folk.I really could not pick a favourite from these six because they all delivered some cracking performances.
There are also some wonderful comic roles on the interim from Pat Richards as Ormoroyd, what a classic drunken character-driven role for Pat, reminding me slightly of the late Jimmy Jewel. Alison Hope as Mrs Northrop was fantastic as the stroppy housekeeper to the Helliwells. Gill Cooke was also at her manic best as Lottie Grady, the "would be flame" of one of the grooms, who pours petrol over the raging fires of the Silver Wedding fiasco with her Blackpool revelations.
Anne McCarroll, (housemaid),Matthew Thomason, (Frobes),Ruth Page (Maria's niece), Tom Orton ( the reporter), and Stephen herring (Reverand Mercer) complete the cast list.
Wonderful costumes and props (love the facial hair), and lovingly directed by Dan Maddison, I get the feeling that this particular play was a labour of love for Dan. And the accents were, as usual for the Lace Market Theatre, spot on. The vocal coach at the Lace Market always seem to get the regional accents absolutely right.
To sum up, this is a wonderfully warm and funny play with a wonderfully sharp script, great character actors, with some wonderful characters to play. In short it's just wonderful. T' play is on up t' Sat'day 25 July 2015 at t' Lace Market Theatre, and there's no "lah di dah" t' be seen anywhere.