Wednesday, 6 May 2009

When We Are Married - Liverpool Playhouse

When We Are Married By J. B. Priestley
Director: Ian Brown
Reviewer : Steph Rowe

J. B. Priestley’s cherished classic of social pretence set in Edwardian Yorkshire, is a comedy with a simple yet effective plot. When three couples start celebrating their silver wedding anniversaries, they discover they are not actually married, what ensues is much soul searching with lives that are never going to be quite the same again.

This production has a more sarcastic bite to it than most of Priestley’s other plays and with Ian Brown’s direction this is truly an inspired production.

The roles of the husbands played by the wonderful Paul Brown as Albert Parker, Graham Turner as Joseph Helliwell, and comedian Les Dennis as Herbert Soppitt really give the play panache. Les proved himself to be a very effective comic actor in this role of the hen pecked Herbert instead of just a comedian who does a bit of acting. Paul and Graham take their roles seriously and carry them off brilliantly.

The wives played by the talented Polly Hemmingway as Clara Soppitt (the nagging wife of Herbert) Gabrielle Lloyd as the quiet downtrodden Annie Parker and Tricia Kelly as Maria Helliwell manage to bring laughter and flair to their parts, but it’s Clara at the end of act 1 who causes much amusement and shows true acting ability when left alone on the stage for 2 minutes without speaking. Her facial expressions have you literally crying with laughter.

It must have been tremendous fun to play a servant in this production for Eileen O’Brien as Mrs Northop the forthright and sharp housekeeper and Jodie Mcnee as the put upon maid in the Helliwell household who manages to make her part cheeky and sexy without too much effort.

The stage design by Colin Richmond has been cleverly planned with a see through back screen which enables the dining room and hallway to be seen when lit up, this helps with the choreographic flow throughout the show. The lighting by Tim Mitchell adds to the atmosphere of the play by ingenuously setting the lighting according to the mood of the actors on stage.

If you have never seen one of J. B. Priestley’s plays then why not start with this one, it makes an ordinary evening to the theatre into a rare and exciting night out.

When We Are Married runs at the Liverpool Playhouse until 23rd May
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