RUN FOR YOUR WIFE
HATS Theatre Group
by Ray Cooney
Director: Adam Wright
Ray Cooney is the undisputed master of British farce. His 1980s “Run for Your Wife” has not lost any of its side-splitting appeal. Farce can go terrible wrong unless you have a very strong cast. The eight actors on stage in this production were a remarkable ensemble. To set the story of taxi driver, John Smith’s, marital deception a set of two apartments was made into one. The décor differences highlighted the two separate dwellings. This was impressively achieved and it was complete with all the necessary doors for fast entrances and exits. Mood music and lighting were important to creating the ambience necessary and to adding that extra element needed. The costumes and presentation were of the present day and both made strong statements about the characters.
Adam Wright, for his debut as director, achieved all the right tension for all the pitfalls and complications that were to unfold. Pitch and pace of the dialogue were finely tuned, so necessary as if there should be any forgetfulness or fudging of lines, the play would fall apart. There has to be no thinking of lines, they have to be delivered instantly and picked up by the listener. The members of the cast were well rehearsed. When the comedy comes it is not just in the spoken word but also in facial expressions, body language and not forgetting that all-important discipline, the pause.
Taxi driver, John Smith, is so liked, that he is a friend to all. So much so that he can’t say, “no” with the result he and ends up with two wives. He manages to juggle matters between his two wives by virtue of his irregular working rota. However It all starts to fall apart when he defends an elderly lady from being mugged. In the conflict with the mugger he is concussed. After spending time at the hospital he is brought home by the police and this meant his marital schedule is out of sync.
The play opens with both wives ‘phoning the police. It turns out that there are two police sergeants, one for each of the police stations that the wives have called. Detective Sergeant Troughton was played by Anita Partridge and Detective Sergeant Porterhouse by Phil Bradbury. Both these actors made valuable contributions to creating the jigsaw of the unfolding domestic life of Mr. Smith. Adding to the complication of the story, a newspaper reporter (Nick Trew) takes a photograph of the hero of the mugging. This picture John is desperate not to get published.
“Oh what a tangled web we weave.” To give some credibility to John’s fabricated explanations, he enlisted the help of his friend and neighbour, Stanley. Colin Baker, as Stanley, tried to support John’s untruths. He got himself into one fine mess after another. Colin worked and worked the audience resulting in gales of laughter.
A new neighbour at John’s other residency is Bobby (Oliver Bean) who happens to be gay. He gets embroiled with the Smith’s shenanigans with funny consequences.
The wives are anxious about their husband. They think he might have had an accident. Mary Smith is more of a homely type in contrast to more spirited Barbara Smith. They are both in love with their husband John. Garry Blair, as the likeable John Smith, was almost deadpan in delivery, never “over egging” scenes. This allowed the comedy to flow which allowed for the other actors to express themselves. Garry was not just a feed, he also had his own comedy moments.
The two wives were not stooges for the men; they were strong, rounded characters. There was a little bit of “Carry On” business. Debbie Dickerson, as Mary, and Maria Holloway, as Barbara, controlled the explosive situations until metaphorically, Vesuvius erupted. This displayed comic timing which achieved the right results. Against all expectations the bold and naïve characters they created delivered a lot of humorous moments.
This unwitting love triangle with its instant guffaws proved to be the perfect medicine for the stresses of life today.