Review: When We Are Married, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough

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The revival of JB Priestley’s classic comedy When We Are Married staged by Northern Broadsides is a match made in heaven.

The story of pomp and circumstance in a northern town brought low suits this down-to-earth company perfectly.

It’s all bluff and bluster, stomping and shouting as three couples – who while celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary discover their marriages are not legitimate after all – try to avoid scandal.

Okay, so the Victorian morals and mores mean little to a 21st century in which people swap partners regularly, on-line date, live together and have children outside of wedlock without so much as a blush of shame.

But its old-fashi0nedness is part of the play’s charm. It takes us back to a time of courtship and relationship rituals which mattered.

That said its themes – rights of women, their status and role within a marriage, the differing attitudes of men and women to extra-marital dalliances, status and class – do resonate.

Priestley sets up his couples – as he does in an Inspector Calls – for a fall. Only this is a comedy rather than commentary of social responsibility.

The three couples – the Helliwells, the Parkers and the Soppitts – are all respected pillars of their community in Cleckleywyke.

But as they sup port and smoke cigars, their world comes tumbling down when the ‘la-di-da’ southerner of a chapel organist tells them they were not married by a qualified parson.

This is a cue for rows and revelations that unravel at a frenetic pace which the company never lets falter.

Performances are pitch perfect: Steve Huison and Kate Anthony are the Soppitts. The worm turns when he eventually has enough of her henpecking. Sue Devaney and Adrian Hood are the Soppitts’ opposites, the Parkers. She is downtrodden by her bully of a husband – but not for long.

Mark Stratton and Geraldine Fizgerald are the steady-as-a-rock couple whose relationship is shaken to its foundations by the news.

Artistic director Barrie Rutter saves the best role – drunken press photographer – for himself and mugs the audience mercilessly.

Credit to Kate Rose-Martin as the maid and Lisa Northrop as the char lady.

It runs at the Stephen Joseph Theatre until Saturday October 29. Performances are Wednesday October 26, Friday October 28 at 7.30pm, Thursday October 27 at 1.30pm and 7pm and Saturday October 29 at 2.30pm and 7.30pm.

Tickets on 01723 370541 or online at www.sjt.uk.com