‘Wife after Death’ is a tremendous laugh, being written by Eric Chappell in 2011, when he was 77. The Lincolnshire born, Chappell was an Electricity Board auditor, before becoming a playwright. He is best known for the classic TV series ‘Rising Damp’ that was adapted from his stage play ‘The Banana Box’. It won a BAFTA and the Evening Standard’s film award for ‘Best Comedy’. He is indisputably one of the leading comedy writers in Britain today.
Three years ago, another WA company won a couple of prestigious awards for their production of this comedy, and so I was prepared to be a little disappointed. However, Serial Productions, who are possibly the premiere comedy company in WA, have no fear about tackling even well-known TV comedies such as ‘Blackadder’ and ‘Open All Hours’, normally a death knoll for many small theatre companies. Once again, Serial Productions have excelled.
The two-hour performances of this ‘must-see’ show can be seen at 8.00 pm each Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at the Old Mill Theatre, Mends Street in South Perth, until Saturday the 9th September. There are Sunday matinées at 2.00 pm, on 27th August and 3rd September.
Serial Productions are pleased to support the WA Heart and Lung Transplant Foundation by having a special Charity Night performance on Saturday 26th August, when 50% of the ticket money will go to their chosen and worthy charity.
The opulent set was designed and constructed by George Boyd. George learned the art of set construction some time ago, whilst involved with the Whitehorse Musical Theatre in Melbourne. The scene is the present day, in the Thursby’s sitting room. The set is a sumptuous room with tiled steps leading up to white French windows, with a beautiful garden beyond (excellent artwork by Shannon Pennell). The walls are a light cream, with an olive green feature wall. The oak furniture comprises a drinks table, and a large sideboard. There is a classic sound system, a whatnot and a desirable 1930s, grandmother clock.
In the centre of the room are an open casket and a white lily, floral display. There is a large carpet and two two-seater Dankz settees. A collection of the deceased celebrity’s photos are on show around the coffin – I thought the late Dave was better looking than his photos. Lesley Sutton has been organising, sourcing, and making props for community theatre for over 15 years. The props were perfect, making the room look genuinely ‘lived in’, well done Lesley.
The stage management was by Robert Warner.
The lighting was designed and operated by Shelley Miller, who also operated the sound designed by George Boyd.
The highly popular TV comedian, Dave Thursby, has died and his friends are gathering in his luxury home for his funeral. The first to arrive is Dave’s scriptwriter and best friend, a brash curmudgeon, Harvey (Andrew Govey) who has kept Dave top of the ratings for more than a decade. Vi, who is Harvey’s long-suffering wife (Jacqui Warner), is trying to get her squeamish husband to look into the open coffin and pay his last respects to Dave. Harvey whispers to Vi that only a day or two earlier, Dave had confided in him, admitting to a rather delicate subject that could blow their careers to pieces.
One of the TV executives, whimpering Kevin (Rodney Van Groningen) who is more upset about the potential drop in his income than Dave dying, arrives with wife, a TV production secretary, Jane (Susan Meikle). They have helped Dave’s attractive wife, Laura (Anna Head) arrange the private funeral – for close friends and relatives only. Arrogant Laura, who has for years gloried in being married to a famous person, has arranged a memorable funeral.
Just before the proceedings begin, a strange, rather tarty looking, Scottish ‘wee nyaff’, who no one seems to recognise, appears at the house, she is outspoken Kay (Sandra Sando).
Funerals, like weddings, are a wonderful time to state one’s mind.
Under the attention of his carer, Kylie, Joe Isaia has found his niche in the theatre – being in charge of the tea and coffee. Good cup.
Even though this script is very well constructed and has a real sparkle to it, Serial productions have taken one of the funniest, recently published plays, dissected, analysed and studied it, squeezing every ounce of humour from the dialogue and action. This teamwork always goes beyond the acting, by ensuring the best of sets and teching.
Being a highly respected Group, their director, Robert Warner was able to choose from a large selection of quality candidates at the audition. The names of the comedy actors chosen reads like a local ‘Who is Who?’ with most of the performers having been on stage in all genres, for decades. Many have acted in both a Community and Professional capacity, collecting numerous awards on the way.
Andrew and Rodney were an amazing pair, with Andrew being cool and logical, and Rodney neurotic and irrational, the rapport between the two was superb. The balanced, calm respectability of the three wives was beautifully contrasted with Kay, the unknown party-pooper.
This play is not one of Chappell’s farces, but a skilfully written comedy with plenty of twists and surprises. A non-stop laugh. I know the Houses will be full, so get in quickly. Top class.