‘Wife Begins at Forty’ was written in 1984 by the master of farces, Ray Cooney, in conjunction with the writer of ‘Bewitched’ Earl Barret, and Arne Sultan who wrote some of the ‘Get Smart’ episodes (but who sadly died of cancer before he saw this play being performed).
Ray Cooney, now in his 80s, is an English playwright and actor, his biggest success was ‘Run for Your Wife’ which ran for nine years in London’s West End, becoming London’s longest-running comedy. This was presented by Wanneroo’s Limelight Theatre in August this year.
The Rockingham Theatre Company at ‘The Castle’, Rockingham Theatre, 8 Attwood Way in Rockingham, is presenting this wild two-hour madcap comedy (rather than a farce) on Friday and Saturday evenings at 8.00 pm. The season runs until 3rd December at 8.00 pm. there is also one matinée on Sunday 27th November at 2.00 pm
The scene is the sitting room cum dining area in the Harper’s home in Woking. This is a very well designed (David Heckingbottom) and constructed set (male cast with Rob Walker, Danny Joyce), complete with three doors, a window, staircase, TV and ‘working’ gas fire. The furnishings are excellent (Lorraine Howes) and the room really appears lived in – very well done. As the script reminds us, there are ‘nice curtains and rugs’. The wild costumes are by Kerry Tarbuck.
Jackie Hiscox’s lighting was carefully planned and the soundscape well recorded and operated on cue.
Linda Harper (Kirstie Francis) who has always been easy-going and enjoying the good life, now confides to her neighbour and best friend, Betty (Larraine Heckingbottom) that she has only three years before she will be 40! Already she is feeling that the better side of life is passing her by. Her son Leonard (Callon Leam) is a typical teenager, enjoying life, doing as little as possible and not even noticing she is in the house. Then there is Linda’s loving father in law, Bernard (Ron Gent), senile and still living out his war service in the Air Force.
Linda’s husband, George (David Heckingbottom) has been a good father to her son, a great family breadwinner, but he is boring with a capital ‘B’. They have been married 17 years and their love life is now down to birthdays and Christmas, if she is lucky.
At one in the morning, Linda and George stagger home from a business, fancy dress party at the Town Hall. They are closely followed by Betty’s husband, Roger (Peter Scarrott), who is hoping to scrounge a few more free drinks before going home. When Linda goes up to bed, Roger reveals to George that he has had a vasectomy, and that his sex drive has since increased beyond his wildest dreams. Roger confides he now has extracurricular interests on a Monday and Wednesday night. Roger thoroughly recommends that George gets a ‘snip’ too – it will make a new man of him.
Will George take Roger’s advice, or does Linda have ideas of her own?
This play was written in about 30 years ago, and is now showing a little bit of age. Cooney’s sole efforts were his better scripts, but this comedy has a great plot and plenty of laughs. David Heckingbottom and Kirstie Francis had tremendous chemistry, with Kirstie playing the randy but ignored wife, and David as the boring, and at times ‘disabled’ husband. Both actors not only had perfect comedic, verbal timing, but their hilarious body language doubled the humour.
After years of acting and presenting farces, director Sue Walker ably assisted by Larraine Heckingbottom, have milked every ounce of comedy from the show. All of the actors have literally thrown themselves boldly – and daringly – into the wild and ridiculous situations. Good supporting cast.
Young Callon Leam has come on leaps and bounds since his first show. He has certainly grasped the skills of comedy delivery. A few more years and a new generation of younger comic actors will be required, and he is in line.
At the ‘Castle’, you can always be sure of a warm welcome and a professional show.