DEBBIE Isitt’s play The Woman Who Cooked her Husband was first published and performed in 1993, and when it was revived nine years later, national newspaper critics were at pains to point out that feminism had moved on in the decade and it seemed dated.
Fast forward to 2015 at Poole Lighthouse’s studio theatre, where Dramatic Productions staged the play.
Dated? I don’t think so. Leopards, as we all know, don’t change their spots, and even “new men” have attitudes ingrained. If the laughter from the large audience at Poole at the Saturday matinee, whose ages ranged from teenage to octogenarian, was anything to go by, this is a play whose message is pretty much timeless.
Tracey Murrey’s sparkling production has powerhouse performances by all three actors.
Kenneth, resplendently bald in green sateen drape jacket, is a lifelong Elvis fan. One night, at the club where he’s the life-and-soul, he meets Laura (in a matching dance dress with red petticoat).
Before long Ken is cheating on Hilary, his devoted wife of 25 years, inventing excuses for late homecomings and imaginary friends to help. Bored with waiting for her new lover to break with his wife, Laura goes to visit Hilary.
This witty and perceptive play is told in short scenes, out of chronological order, and demanding great skill from its actors.
Julia Savill’s Hilary is dumf, self effacing, feisty and poignant almost all at once. This might be black comedy but there wasn’t a woman in the audience who was not rooting for her.
Russell Biles has never been better than as the simple, and simply arrogant, Ken. His scene batted between wife and lover is both brilliantly choreographed (by Paula Lelliott Stevens) and performed.
And Celia Muir is the perfect Laura, selfish, sexy, neurotic and incompetent. Her understanding of her real situation grew tangibly and delightfully.
The denouement is flagged in the title, and again in the opening speech, but the future is subtly hinted by two tiny moments, both handled with great delicacy by the two women.
In my opinion, this is the best thing that the versatile and talented Dramatic Productions has ever done, and if it’s dated in London, I think it has powerful legs in the provinces!
Footnote: Debbie Isitt is responsible for the three smash hit films Nativity, and its sequels Danger in the Manger and Dude Where’s My Donkey?