First produced by Ray Cooney’s Theatre of Comedy Company in 1985, the show arrives at the Pier Theatre in June, as part of a national tour, and marks a welcome return for the genre which filled the venue every successive summer season from the 60s through to the late 90s, and brought the biggest names in showbiz to the resort year after year.
This production stars a number of Pier regulars from times past, including Vicki Michelle, best known to TV audiences as Yvette in Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft’s ‘Allo ‘Allo, Trevor Bannister – Mr Lucas in Are You Being Served? - and Anita Graham, most recently seen on TV in Horne and Corden.
The plot revolves around an estranged couple, Linda and George, coming to terms with her ‘mid-life crisis’, and includes all the staple ingredients of farce that have delighted holiday audiences for decades.
Bournemouth’s Pier Theatre, first opened on 3rd June 1960 with Carry on Laughing starring Ted Rogers, and follwed with a new show at the theatre each year. In 1964, Thora Hird starred in The Best Laid Plans and in 1966, Sid James was in George & Alfred Black present 'Spring Wedding'. Dick Emery appeared in 1967 with Oh! You are Awful. Popular farce The Mating Game was performed in 1969, 1971, and in 1989 (with Barbara Windsor, Terry Scott and Anita Graham in the cast). No Sex Please We're British was first performed at the Pier Theatre in 1973 and again in 2000. For the children there was Sooty with Harry Corbett in 1968 and Rupert Bear in 1975.
Like all seaside resorts, Bournemouth has struggled to adapt to the changing holiday market, and the Pier Theatre’s fortunes over the past ten years have echoed the decline in tourism in the town and across the country. The theatre is no longer run by the local council, and the current operator is valiantly trying to bring about a renaissance for the much loved building, but has already had to contend with 2009’s appalling summer weather, and the harshest recession since the 1930s.
In previous years, the summer farce would be booked to run for the entire summer season and would guarantee house full signs throughout the school holidays. It is a sad reflection that, in 2010, this production runs at the Pier for just 3 performances. However, there is hope that this will re-engage locals and holiday-makers alike, and fill the theatre again!
Wife Begins at Forty plays at The Pier Theatre, Bournemouth 4 – 6 June, as part of a national UK tour.