first night

Run For Your Wife

Rebecca Flynn discovers a world of bigamy, lies and newspaper consumption up on the hill.

It was when Ben Anscombe started eating the latest issue of Palatinate that it became clear to me what lengths the cast and crew of Run For Your Wife would go to for comedy. The lighting, sound and cast were sharp and in tune, allowing a seamless production.

Joe Terry, the director, describes this British farce as ‘a silly play with silly characters’. John Smith (Anscombe) is a London Taxi driver who has successfully lived as a secret bigamist (unknown to both his wives), until an accident, and the interference of his neighbour, Stanley Gardner (Alex Prescot). What ensues is a tangled web of lies - involving nuns, transvestites, a policeman called Pussy and a farmer with a bullock problem - as Smith tries to appease his simple, yet caring wife Mary (Amy Coles) and his icy, yet sexually eager wife Barbara (Clara Duncan).
The set perfectly represented Smith’s double life, as Barbara was bathed in red, and Mary dwelled in blue, and I liked that this colour theme was even carried to their clothing. The differences between the two wives, yet their similar position, is highlighted in the first scene where the two wives have almost identical, and simultaneous, phone conversations. However, unfortunately, the position of the audience - down both sides of Trevelyan’s hall - posed some problems, and there were points where I couldn’t see what was going on at the other end of the hall. Unfortunately, this meant I missed some of the physical comedy, although, tantalisingly, I could hear the laughs of the audience at that end.
Both wives were perfection. Duncan was icy, uptight and seductive, whilst Coles’s hysterics were affecting. Anscombe, at times reminded me of Michael McIntyre; quick, witty and hopelessly British. Anscombe worked particularly well with Prescot as the pair bounced off one another, however, it did take Prescot a little while to warm up and his first lines felt a bit stale. Nevertheless, by the end of the first-act Stanley had become the interfering best friend – with good intentions – that everyone fears.
Stanley’s parallel, Bobby Franklyn (Pete Lock) deserves praise for being wonderfully camp, but without making it seem false or strained. Unfortunately, Bart Edge slightly overplayed his character Sgt. Porterhouse, a bumbling policeman, at points and it felt a bit too wink, wink for me. Matt Todd’s portrayal of Porterhouse’s double, Sgt Troughton was more believable and I particularly enjoyed his interaction, on the phone, with Mary.
By the end crescendo (Coles literally got louder), when all the cast were together on Barbara’s side (great, I could see!), I found myself hopelessly grinning, enrapt in the story. Run For Your Wife is structured through doubling and contradictions, but at the end, all that remains is the single sound of the audience’s simultaneous laughter.
Rebecca Flynn

23 November 2012

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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