Cambridge's leading amateur theatre production company

Established 1981

When We Are Married
by J B Priestley   directed by Colin Lawrence

The ADC Theatre, Cambridge, July, 2015

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Two Reviews of When We Are Married
Review by Margaret Clark
Three couples spending an evening together to celebrate their wedding anniversary hear that the church minister holding the separate wedding services on the same day twenty five years previously was not fully licensed.  Calamity!  The three husbands are pillars of the local community and their wives bask in the reflected glory.  To make matters worse the news is broken by a new church organist from the South of England with the lah-de-dah name of Gerald. The year is 1908 and we are in the town of Clecklewyke, a name that puts the stamp of Yorkshire onto the script.

There were strong performances and acceptable accents from all members of the cast.
Alderman Joseph Helliwell (David Foyle) slowly deflated as the sorry situation dawned on him while his flummoxed wife Maria (Mandi Cattell) wanted her mother. Councillor Albert Parker (Tony Dutton) a self made ambitious man with a much put-upon wife, Annie (Caroline Harbord)   later emboldened to outline a few home truths.   And then Mrs Clara Soppitt (Sandra Birnie), a magnificently strident voice and a star at the art of compressed lips married to henpecked Herbert (Nick Warburton) who, at the last fence with a loud voice, puts his foot down  to applause from the audience.    The Helliwell's young niece Nancy Holmes (Kate Cattermole) teams up with young Gerald Forbes (James Barwise) to give a hint of the three loving relationships twenty five years ago before the dark horrors of married life emerged.

Sarah Middle as Ruby, the maid, gave a delightful performance although it was a pity that the audience were deprived of her pretty face by standing in profile to deliver a recitation. There was a splendidly raucous Mrs Northrop from Helen McCallum and a good performance from Lindsey McAuley as a tart with a heart.  Tony Stafford's Reverend Clement Mercer fell pleasantly on the ear as in honeyed tones he offered assistance to the stricken couples.

The two members of  the Yorkshire Argus staff, Fred Dyson (Colin Horne) breezed in with heavy handed congratulations and  Barry Brown as Henry Ormonroyd the inebriated photographer, a role that has become an icon of British theatre. In the original production when the actor playing the part suffered an accident Priestley himself took over.   We were not disappointed as Ormonroyd chatted up Ruby and then was chatted up himself by Lottie before eventually solving the conundrum by confirming the presence of a Registrar at the church nuptials, and then taking the long promised photograph of the three happy couples. 
 
Designed and constructed by Tony Broscomb and Cathy McCluskey, the set of an Edwardian sitting room was ideal, although perhaps a shade more furnishings and clutter for its nouveau riche owners would have helped . Great thought had been given to the selection of costumes with beautiful gowns for the ladies.  Sadly the elegant formal suits for their men were marred by the lack of highly polished shoes, in those days the sign of a successful man.  I loved the Argus employees' suits; as for the rest, great!

There was a nice touch in Music Hall songs selected by Mike Milne being played during the intervals.   Slightly muted I could not hear them all but with It's a Great Big Shame and Two Lovely Black Eyes the music was redolent of the married way of life for some.
When We Are Married appears to be ageless; as bright upon the stage as at its first production in 1938.  Act II, in particular, is superbly written. Congratulations to Director, Colin Lawrence, cast and crew in serving up an enjoyable, delicious, very funny toast to marriage.

Review by David Supper for 'Sardines' Theatre Magazine

In comparison to Priestley's 'Time' plays (Dangerous Corner, An Inspector Calls, Time And The Conways and I Have Been Here Before), 'When We Are Married' has none of the twists and turns that provide such strong and intriguing plot lines. Indeed, 'When We Are Married' depends solely on the premise of what would happen if, after 25 years of marriage, that the marriage proved to be null and void. This then, is the vehicle that carries a range of 'stock' comedy characters that inhabit this 'Edwardian' farce.

I say Edwardian, but the play was actually written in 1938 looking back to a Pre-First World War period before Europe was thrown into turmoil yet again. It is this that dated the play, and the language Priestley used is also dated and jars uncomfortably in 2015.
However the Bawds' production at the ADC Theatre, what a delightful little theatre it is too (my first visit), joyfully embraces these stock comedy characters as they float in and out of a very impressive 'Edwardian' drawing room. This production was slick and the actors more than competent and technically I could not fault it, apart that is, from the actors' annoying habit of talking through laughter, something the director should have eliminated.

Why then was I left with a feeling of dissatisfaction when the curtain finally fell? Perhaps it was because the director asked very little of his actors, apart from emphasising the very cliche'd nature of the comedy characters, that I felt very little empathy with them, nor did I care whether they were married or not! The play is very funny and received its generous share of laughter from the audience, but the situation is, no getting away from it, absurd. All in all, however, Bawds are to be congratulated on an excellent production.