The Theatreguide.London Review
The Five Wives of Maurice Pindar
Cottesloe Theatre Summer 2007
Maurice Pindar is an ordinary middle-aged bloke who lives in a downmarket London suburb with his four wives and assorted children. And everyone is happy.
Well, Esther is depressed, and Fay picks up men in bars, and Lydia wants to leave, and Rowena is just there because she has no place else to go. So by the time a Council busybody starts poking about, it's not clear how much there is left to defend in this alternative life style, and even the recruitment of a super-efficient Number Five to keep everything shipshape may be too late.
Matt Charman's new play, alternately warm, comic and dramatic, wants to be a defence of the principle that what the members of a family call family is family. But Charman's mind can't follow his heart - he keeps seeing complications, flaws and alternative arguments that muddy his play's vision and keep it from any consistency of tone.
The Pindar menage is introduced as thoroughly happy and dedicated to the fulfilment of everyone's needs. But no sooner is that image established than we are forced to wonder if it is just Maurice's idea of paradise, established and maintained at the cost of the women.
Maurice himself is alternately loving pater familias, confused weakling and despotic tyrant. Each woman's brave and happy front crumbles under the slightest pressure.
Maurice's 17-year-old son, through whose eyes much of this is seen, moves in what seems a twinkling from ardent defender to angry critic of the arrangement. And even the Council snoop begins to seem less a bluenose bigot and more a confused and basically nice guy.
A play that set out to prove that an alternative definition of family was viable could make for interesting drama, and equally so could a play that exposed the falsity of such claims. But Charman seems to want to have it both ways, or can't decide from minute to minute which side he is on.
So his play, for all its entertaining moments and attractive characters, just rambles on and on, losing rhythm, coherence and audience interest.
Director Sarah Frankcom isn't able to paper over all these cracks, nor can any of the five actresses do much with roles that have been defined as near-stereotypes (the motherly one, the sexy one, etc.) to differentiate them.
As it turns out, it is the two partial outsiders, Adam Gillen as the son and Steve John Shepherd as the Council man, who can make the most of the opportunities to develop their characters.
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