Of course, it used to be window-cleaners who were most likely to catch the lady of the house in a bathrobe - or something less. The late Donald Churchill's 1980s comedy The Decorator has more of a makeover artist (or should that be "artiste"?) as its protagonist.
He's supposed to be painting the study in the London mansion flat which Marcia shares with her businessman husband, due back imminently from a trip to Bahrein. This is the Eighties, after all, a decade with a certain flush of innocence wrapped around its feet, even if that wrap has definitely slivered from its shoulders.
But Walter, the decorator, is not quite what he seems, and Jane, the outraged (and outrageous) wife who bursts in accusing Marcia of a trysting dinner with Jane's husband can hit the heights as well as the depths. Comedies about floundering marriages and diminishing career hopes are seldom as simple as they seem.
Walter is a gift of a barnstorming part and Leslie Grantham has no intention of letting any fraction of it escape. Which leaves Sabina Franklyn as Marcia and Sarah Manners as Jane somewhat in the background. As decoration, in fact. And that's a great pity. A theatre-savvy audience is going to get a great deal more from Ian Dickens' production than one which goes purely to see a television star on stage. Not that Grantham doesn't give good value, from his shoe-shedding mannerisms to some wickedly accurate impersonations of famous past ... but to say what would really be giving the plot away.
There's been no attempt to update the play to the Noughties, which helps to anchor it in that bedrock of probability which has to be there if we are to laugh with as well as at the twists of the plot and the ever more frenetic attempts of the characters to extricate themselves with at least a frayed fig leaf to cover their embarrassments and preserve the semblance of self-respect.
- Anne Morley-Priestman (reviewed at the Gordon Craig Theatre, Stevenage)