JB PRIESTLEY’S sharply comic look at the attitudes of the Victorian northern middle classes, When We Are Married, has a marvellous production at Ilminster until Saturday 28th May.
Directed, in a fast-for-amateurs six week rehearsal period by Lyn Lockyer, with an eye and an ear for detail, there is not a weak link among the 14-strong company.
The play is set in the early 20th century in the parlour of a well-to-do alderman. He and two friends, a fellow councillor and a solicitor, all married on the same day 25 years ago, and the three couples are having a bit of a “do” to celebrate. But not before the pompous men have thrown their weight about a bit, chastising Gerald Forbes, the organist and choir master of their Chapel, for unseemly flirting.
Unbeknown to them, Gerald has the ace in the pack. He has discovered that the “vicar” who married them a quarter century ago was unqualified … these pillars of society have been living in sin in plain sight of their community!
When We Are Married is a popular choice for amateur dramatic societies, and all too often performed as a period piece with laughs, without any real attempt at character delineation.
Not so at Ilminster Entertainments Society, where every single performance maximised the potential for insight and personality, at the same time as being performed on a solidly convincing Victorian set that even included a painting of Patrick Knox as Ald. Joseph Helliwell over the fireplace.
What can bit a bit stuffy and slow sparkled with these performances, as every cast member inhabited their characters bringing us a pert young maid (Anna Griffiths), a grumpy housekeeper too fond of the bottle (Jane Leakey), a thunderous preacher, a flamboyant good-time-girl, a chippy young organist and a drunken press photographer (Mike Glynn – whose antics were a masterclass in how to play tipsy.)
The sextet at the centre of the action were the suavely attractive Helliwell and his steady wife (Jo Neagle), the wonderfully stingy Coun. Parker (Dave Goodall, all injured vanity) and his surprisingly lively wife (Irene Glynn) and the downtrodden Herbert Soppitt (Ken Steed)suddenly finding the spirit so long suppressed by his domineering wife, played by Felicity Forrester.
There was not one single wobble from the Northern accent, nor one false note in the characterisation. I can’t praise this production highly enough, nor imagine the Priestley classic better done, but amateurs or professionals.
See it if you can.
Footnote. The grabbed image does not include the terrific set.