The Basildonians - When We Are Married
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The Basildonians - When We Are Married

11th to 13th May 2006.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Spot of marital mayhem

Priestley's technical hitch means scandal for silver wedding couples

The Basildonians: When We Are Married, at Upper Basildon from Thursday, May 11 to Saturday May 13

J.B. Priestley was a great observer of social mores. When We Are Married challenges and unsettles the comfortable middle classes of their time, and probably ours too.

Set about 100 years ago in a small town in Yorkshire, it depicts self-satisfied pillars of the community who throw their weight around on the council and in the churches. Respectability is all-important, so imagine the scandal and outrage that would threaten three couples celebrating their joint silver wedding anniversaries if it emerged that, owing to a legal technicality, they weren't married at all.

In the Basildonians excellent production, there was a great sense of ensemble playing and pace with nicely defined characters. Tim Manasseh and Claire Burroughs played the bombastic Councillor Parker and his bored wife. The blustering Alderman Helliwell and his wife, her anger always bubbling beneath the surface like a volcano about to erupt, were Nick and Sue Thorowgood (I bet they had fun rehearsing at home) and the Soppitts, henpecked Herbert and fearsome Clara, were brilliantly played by Peter Nightingale and Sue Matthews. These two showed particularly well the effect of the shocking news, with Herbert suddenly discovering a dominant trait and Clara becoming quite demure, and Ms Matthews had a devastating sense of timing in her withering one-liners - lovely stuff.

The trials and tribulations of the three couples were well-seasoned by, among others, a feisty maid and a very blunt charwoman, well played by Henrietta Bailey and Angela Crompton, Chris Hawson as the increasingly drunk and confused photographer, sent to capture the happy event and Stella Ross as the confident and colourful 'other woman' Lottie Grady.

Director Gill Reid managed her large cast expertly and her firm grasp of the comedy meant that we all left smiling.

LESLEY MCEWEN