Theatre review: When We Are Married – Burnley Garrick Club

The Garrick at The ACE during their dress rehersal of their play 'When We Are Married'.
The Garrick at The ACE during their dress rehersal of their play 'When We Are Married'.
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Pricking the bubble of pomposity, J.B. Priestley’s classic comedy, When We Are Married opens the Garrick’s new season at the ACE Centre.

Priestley was always keen to deflate the pomposity of the middle classes, and this play has been called “the funniest and among the most enduring plays that he wrote.”

And it was brought vividly to life by a superb team of Garrick players under the guidance of director, Dorothy Spencer.

Opening the play was a very pert Ruby Birtles, played by Rachel Bailey with just the right air of mischief, setting the scene of the 25th wedding anniversary of three local dignitaries with the local church organist played by Kevin Kay who had been summoned to the Hellivell’s to answer charges of dalliance with a young lady, Nancy Holmes, played by Laura Chadwick..

Three couples, the Soppits, the Parkers have come together at the home of Alderman Helliwell to celebrate.

One of the husbands is a Town Councillor, Albert Parker, a pompous windbag played with just the right amount of smugness by Alan Hargreaves.

His wife, Annie played by Lynne Atkinson, gave a very understanding portrayal of a woman under her husband’s thumb who has been subjected to a narrow life of drudgery.

Another couple is the Soppitts, Clara and Herbert, played by Viv Thornber and Neil Tranmer.

These two gave a very believable portrayal of a couple who had been together a long time, each knowing their place – Clara was the boss, Herbert did as he was told. What a delightful transformation we witnessed from these two as actors as attitudes became reversed when the worm turned.

Beautifully observed by both Viv and Neil, they had the laughs and they had the audience in the palms of their hands as the evening progressed. This was superb acting.

They have come to the richly-decorated drawing room of Joseph and Maria Helliwell; played by Susan Dinsdale and Stephen Dixon.

Such believable performances from both these experienced actors. Susan’s attempts at, sometimes misplaced poshness, drew the laughs from an appreciative audience

Putting the cat among the pigeons was Kathleen Riley playing Mrs Northrop, the housekeeper who like a good gossip.

Another finely tuned performance from Kathleen as she learned the secret lurking beneath the surface.

The reporter from the Yorkshire Argus and his photographer were played by Simon Bailey and Alan Bailey respectively.

Although smaller roles, we had big actors and Alan Bailey was just this right side of inebriation to draw the laughs with Simon a superb foil.

The femme fatale, Lottie Grady was played in good honest style by Elaine Taberner as was Terry Atkinson as a very confident Rev. Clement Mercer.

This production from the Garrick had the hallmark of class – there was not a weak link in the cast and not a sign of first night nerves from any of them.

The pace flowed from beginning to end and never once was a very appreciative audience less than entertained by this very tight ensemble playing from the cast.

The play flowed seamlessly.

The cast, the technical crew and the director are to be congratulated on a superb production which created a very happy audience.

When We Are Married is at the ACE Centre Nelson until Saturday 4th October. Not to be missed.