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Run For Your Wife (Hornchurch, Queen's Theatre)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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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 events.

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.


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