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When We Were Married

Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds

Tue 4th October to Sat 8th Oct

The scene is set the minute you walk into the auditorium, the damask wallpaper and potted aspidistras placing the scene firmly in Victorian England and once the lights go down the maid’s accent let you know that you must be ‘up north’ – ay, in t’wunderful towin of Clecklewyke.

In 1883 four couples get married in the same chapel on the same day.  In 1908, on their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, three of these couples gather to celebrate.  In the farce that follows it transpires that the pastor who conducted the service hadn’t quite gotten around to finishing off the paperwork and wasn’t actually authorised to conduct marriage services.

The author himself says of the play: “The plot is nonsensical but the character and their attitudes and their talk are all authentic.”   With that background it falls heavily on the cast to make this production work, and they do so without fail.  From the moment the breathless Ruby Brittle (Kat Rose-Martin) starts to list the trappings of the dinner table to the bemused Mr Forbes (Luke Adamson), we were hooked.

The pompous arrival of the three central male characters, Alderman Helliwel, Cllr Parker and plain old Herbert Soppitt leaves us under no allusions that this is a well-respected, patriarchal, proper household where Lah-di-dah and swank is frowned upon.

There are no fewer than fifteen characters in this play which is presented by Northern Broadsiders and York Theatre Royal.  Highlighting any one individual actor amongst so many is unfair but some of my favourite moments among were:  Steve Huison’s Herbert Soppitt, the hapless hen pecked husband of Clara (Kate Anthony) slapping his ‘former’ wife across the face came hilariously of the blue.  So too was Herbert’s dancing during the final ‘bit of a do’.

The facial expressions of the ‘former’ Mrs Parker (Sue Devaney) compliments her dialogue beautifully as she sits on the chaise lounge whilst the towering Cllr Parker (Adrian Hood) explains to the little woman how he will stand by her.  Little did Cllr Parker know of her tryst in the wagonette with Herbert!

As a photographer I may have been one of the few in the audience to get Henry Ormonroyd’s upside down joke, though I feel everyone enjoyed Barrie Rutter’s portrayal of this drunken gregarious character.  Indeed Mr. Rutter is to be commended for his direction of this production also.

When We Were Married is touring the country and last night in Bury was the third venue it has visited, it runs at the Theatre Royal until Saturday 8th.  We have no hesitation in recommending this production – ‘tis a rit gud laff.   Click here for tickets.

[box type=”shadow” align=”” class=”” width=””]Footnote:  An evening at the theatre starts the moment you arrive, not when the lights go up.  Parking at the Theatre Royal is at the back of the theatre, in the Green King staff car park.  Because it is a private car park the barrier is manned by a member of the theatre staff who is there in all weathers.  What a pleasant greeting we got, we were asked if it was our first time, if we knew where we were going – helpful little things that are priceless.  Thank you Theatre Royal.[/box]