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 The Theatreguide.London Review

When We Are Married
Garrick Theatre     2010-2011

J.B. Priestley's venerable comedy is one of those expertly made plays they just don't write any more, a perfect combination of characters, situations and gags that probably didn't break any new artistic ground even in 1938 but guarantees a Good Night Out.

And the current production offers a cast of experienced old hands (perhaps a wee bit too old for the roles, but who's complaining?) who find all the laughs, invent a few of their own and make it all look so very easy as only the most expert can.

In 1908 three couples, all solid burghers and pillars of the community, are celebrating their joint 25th wedding anniversaries when they discover that a technicality way back then means they were never legally married.

Cue shock, horror, fear for their reputations, and a sudden realisation by some of them that perhaps they are just as happy not being married to their erstwhile spouses.

It all works out in the end, as we know it must, with just enough small changes in the various marital dynamics to make the journey seem worth it.

Much of the fun comes from the fact that Priestley nicely individualises the six central characters so that we can enjoy and occasionally be surprised by their various reactions, and here the cast come into their own, making the most, under director Christopher Luscombe's light-handed direction, of their comic opportunities.

The script repeatedly puts a pairing - not always husband and wife - onstage alone so that one can shock or surprise the other (and frequently him/herself). So when Michele Dotrice's mousy blend-into-the-furniture wife rebels ever-so-slightly against her bullying husband played by Simon Rouse, we don't know which to watch as they react.

Much the same is true when Sam Kelly's henpecked husband stands up to Maureen Lipman's termagant wife, the two actors vying for how little they have to do to make us laugh, or when the third couple played by David Horovitch and Susie Blake top each other in outraged frustration.

Jodie McNee takes full advantage of scenes written for her to steal as a plain-speaking maid, and Roy Hudd repeatedly takes over the stage (and is welcome to it) as a tipsy photographer.

A perfect play to bring your maiden aunt to, When We Are Married is also full of delights the most sophisticated theatregoers will be unable to resist.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of  When We Are Married - Garrick Theatre 2010
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