What a great comedy this is, made even greater by this wonderful cast. Starring Dawn French as Clara Soppitt, a very big round fierce lady who dominates her husband. She is a dream, the look on her face and aggressive movements on stage bring a lot of laughs from the audience. All Dawn French fans will not be disappointed. Also superb are Alison Steadman as Maria Helliwell and particularly Annette Badland as Annie Parker, the naive one . These are all the three wives, who for me steal the show.
It is nice to see dear old Leo McKern on stage, he played Henry Ormonroyd, the photographer. However, his voice was a little hard to understand , it sounded like he needed to cough all the time.
The three husbands, Denis Hill, playing the intellectual one, Roger Lloyd Pack, playing Counsellor Albert Parker, the stingy and dull one, and Paul Copley, playing Herbert Soppitt, a weak and dominated husband. played their parts convincingly. In fact all the cast were superb, it is very hard to find a weak link.
This is a top notch production, very funny and definitely worth seeing. It is only on for a short run to November, but I would not be surprised to see it extended.
Jude Kelly's admirable revival of J. B. Priestley's 1938 farce is set about 90 years ago, in the sitting room of Mr. & Mrs. Helliman, who are entertaining two other couples, to celebrate the silver anniversary of their triple wedding. They have "got it in for" Gerald Forbes, the church organist, who has been seen out with a girl at night, something apparently very shocking in this day and age. What they do not know is that "the girl" is none other than Nancy, the Helliman's niece who resides with them. Gerald is holding the trump card, being in possession of a letter from the vicar who had married them, all those years ago, confessing that he was new to the job, and had omitted to get the relevant forms signed, and was therefore not qualified to perform the ceremony. Shock! Horror! The three couples have spent the last 25 years living in sin.
The most entertaining of the three couples was Dawn French as the well built Clara and her henpecked husband Herbert (played by Paul Copley). French gets many more laughs from this role than Priestly has written. Although she looks funny and has fantastic comedy timing, she has come up with some hysterical business to compliment (and definitely not detract from) the dialogue. Copley cowers with terror, scuttling around the stage avoiding her wrath, until he finds out the truth of their matrimonial status, and how the audience cheered when the worm finally turned!
Best known for playing Trigger in the UK sitcom Only Fools and Horses, Roger Lloyd Pack excelled as the inverted snob Albert Parker, who is perfectly beastly to Annette Badlands as his wife Annie. What an entertaining double act! Badlands is similar in size to French, but the opposite in character. They made the most of this and worked well off each other.
Judith Parker as the housekeeper Mrs. Northrop got the laughs, but at times overplayed it. Shirley Anne Field was exceptionally disappointing in her cameo as Helliwells mistress, and gave a rather grating performance. Leo Mckern as the drunken photographer had his moments, but was not up to his usual standard.
There is no doubt that this piece is rather dated, and there are certain scenes which are slow and tedious (and would have benefited from some hefty cuts), however the predominately exemplary cast and slick direction save the day, and generally, it is a pretty entertaining evening. Furthermore, it is always a joy to visit the Savoy Theatre, a most splendid example of Art Decco interior design, so beautifully restored after the unfortunate fire a few years ago.
(Jason L Belne)