Remember the 1970s?
That era of flares and floaty dresses? Of relaxed attitudes to
sexuality? Of theatrical feel-good as well as experimentation? Ray
Cooney's now classic farce Run For Your Wife
takes on board all that with a thoroughly subversive twist, which is
echoed in Mark Walters' witty bifurcated and distorted set for Bob
Eaton's new production.
The plot centres around
John Smith (Sean Needham), a taxi-driver with two wives. Wife
Number One is Mary (Sarah Mahony) who lives with him in Wimbledon
and suffers from an out-of-work neighbour Stanley (Simon Jessop).
Wife Number Two is Barbara (Barbara Hockaday) in Streatham, and her
new neighbour is the camp Bobby (Elliot Harper).
This being the 1970s,
before mobile phones and other aids to tracking down missing
relations or colleagues, when John has an accident his carefully
balance of his two ménages crumbles hilariously. The final pair are
both policemen – DS Porterhouse (James Earl Adair) and DS
Troughton (Dan de Cruz). Their enquiries about the incident which
led to the hospitalisation of John trigger the whole sequence of
Needham sustained a
real injury during rehearsals but copes very well in spite of this.
The real comic turn is Jessop, as Stanley's well-meaning attempts to
help only lead to even more misunderstandings. Both Hockaday and
Mahony give him a good run for the audience's laughter, especially
when they finally meet and have the inevitable cat-fight. Then
there's avuncular Adair and Jason King-clone de Cruz who end up by
adding to the general confusion.
You must bear in mind
that this play is set within the decade which saw homosexual acts
legalised. When Troughton is faced with a apparent male love-nest,
his attitude is strictly by-the-book. The role of Bobby the couturier
is one of deliberate caricature; you can feel safe laughing at him
rather than with him, and Harper goes along with this to hilarious
effect. Distance, after all, spreads its own level of magic.