‘Run for Your Wife’ was written by one of the world’s best farce playwrights, London born, Ray Cooney OBE. This bawdy, 1983 adult romp was Ray’s most successful play; it ran for nine years in London’s West End ‘Whitehall Theatre’, where it starred Richard Briers and Bernard Cribbins. Superbly structured and scripted, it still is London’s longest-running comedy.
Presented by the Wanneroo Repertory Inc., this two and a quarter hour, fast moving, hilarious show can be seen at the Limelight Theatre, Civic Drive in Wanneroo each Thursday, Friday and Saturday night at 8.00 until Saturday 13th August.
The action takes place about 1988, in two venues, a maisonette in Wimbledon and another flat in Streatham. Two adjoining suburbs in south London.
The stage is divided in half, one side a plush, well-furnished apartment – Streatham; the other side of the stage is a cottage-style flat in Wimbledon, with exposed brickwork and large patterned graphic wallpaper. Great design by Robert Vincent and Carol Keppler. The set was built by the cast and techs – Wally Fry, Zach Ozolins, Grace and Kim Elford.
The settees and furnishings, however, belong to both flats so at times the same sofa could have a person from each flat, speaking to each other by ‘phone – a tricky setup, but it worked beautifully.
Some great props gathered by Colleen Hopkins, Andrew Govey and The Vincents.
As well as being judged on the immediately visible set, a quality design like this, has that extra touch. When the kitchen door opened, there was a light on – not just a black void – and the kitchen dresser, with crockery was visible through the doorway.
The curtains open to the tune of ‘Love and Marriage’, revealing two women still in their night attire, looking anxiously out of their lounge windows. Then, in unison they telephone the police. One woman Mary Smith (Christine Smith) calls the Wimbledon Police Station, the other Barbara Smith (Susannah Bell), Streatham, both with the same story, their husband, John Smith is missing.
With thick bandaging on his head and slight concussion, London cabbie owner, John Smith (Gordon Park) is helped into his Wimbledon home by a detective, D S Troughton (R. J. Smolders). John’s wife, Mary is so relieved to have her husband back, especially on hearing he was the hero of a mugging attack. As the group is chatting, into the flat wanders John’s best friend, Stanley Gardner (Andrew Govey), a yob with a thick mullet haircut who lives in the upstairs flat. Before leaving, the detective asks if he could clear up a puzzle, the hospital had two addresses for John – why was that?
Later, whilst Mary is making a cup of tea, John confides in Stanley that he is a bigamist, with two flats and two wives. He is sharing his time between them, and at present, according to his precisely planned diary, he is actually in the wrong home. He should be in Streatham and not Wimbledon.
As John is leaving for his other home, a newspaper reporter (Tom Melanko) arrives. If John’s photo should hit the press, his duplicity will be exposed. Panic stricken, John arrives at his other home, only to find that his second wife, Barbara, is describing him to her local detective, D S Porterhouse (Peter Boylen). Barbara’s new, overtly gay, upstairs neighbour, Bobby (Chris McCafferty) calls to introduce himself.
Even with the help of Stanley, how much longer can John fool his two wives, and those around him?
Susan Vincent is an accomplished actress, as well as an experienced and admired director, with every theatre skill possible acquired over her lifetime in the theatre. She has also had experience in broadcasting. Here she directs the perfect troupe in a brilliant farce.
The cast is divided into three groups, the panicking John and Stanley who look like star fish as their arms and legs flail around. Then there are the two confused and emotionally upset wives and the two detectives who are the straight men – Bobby is definitely not a straight man.
Gordon, who never does eye contact when he is acting, uses it to his advantage when he blankly looks around, with fear in his eyes, as he thinks up the next mad excuse. Andrew has wonderful chemistry with Gordon as they try to fool the police and the two wives. The girls were delightful, scantily clad (costumes Joyce Gilbert) so sexy without being tasteless. Susannah was the hard, angry wife and poor Christine as the heartbroken, screaming spouse, devastated by the situation. The timing was absolutely perfect, the delivery of every double-entendre went without a hitch. The cast nailed it.
Limelight is accustomed to full houses, but this show was a sell-out almost instantly.
One of the best farces that I have seen.