Taking the form of a 1950's television game show, Recipe for a Perfect Wife brings a touch of glamour to the King's Head as five potentially "perfect wives" battle to take home the title. The 1950's television show is well constructed with husband and wife hosts, sung adverts and a canned laughter track.
Working their way through a series of rounds where the wives compete to demonstrate their domestic superiority, the format wears slightly thin. Each wife tries simply to out do each other, with little more than predictable one-upmanship from the dialogue. So that one of them can be eliminated at the end of each round, a not-so-subtle slip of the tongue generally spelt the end for contestant after contestant.
These sections did give plenty of time for the wives to subtly undermine the practices of the day, their stories included boasting about the length of time they got out of bed before their husband so that he did not have to see her face without makeup and similarly draconian practices.
The script then fell into an even more repetitive pattern as once each character had been dismissed from the competition the lights dimmed for the delivery a soliloquy. Far from the most subtle plot device, this was where the only hint of the underlying drama was exposed, with the most subtle of references made to the housewives facing their husband's sexual perversions or domestic abuse, often resorting to alcohol or prescription drug addiction to get them through the day.
Billed as a dark comedy, this production is not quite dark enough to make an impact and I was left at the end of the show hoping that a second act would somehow lift the vail, giving us more insight into the lives of the characters we had been presented, each of whom hinted at their hidden desires and ambitions throughout the piece.
The sung through adverts of the period break up the show with both singers delivering strong renditions of recognisable 1950's tunes. Matt Houlihan's performance as the suitably lecherous television host provides the majority of the laughs, particularly when acting out with contestants behind his wife's back.