Fringe Box



Wife Begins At Forty – Yvonne Arnaud

Published on: 24 Apr, 2012
Updated on: 24 Apr, 2012

by The Stage Dragon

‘Actors should never work with animals or children.’ If this is the case, then the cast of Ray Cooney’s latest production of Wife Begins at Forty, proves otherwise.

At curtain up we are greeted with the ageing father figure, Bernard Harper (Royce Mills) and the delightful Todd, a  Chinese Crested Powder Puff pooch, who instantly softens the hearts of the audience. Bounding in and out of scenes with perfect timing, the stage lights up when he appears.

Even when Todd decides enough is enough, running off into the wings, leaving Vicki Michelle who plays Linda Harper, to chase after him, you can’t help but fall in love with this cute pup. All the cast deal with him brilliantly.

The breakdown of a relationship might seem an unlikely subject for light-hearted treatment but the line between tragedy and comedy is, as we know, thin and sharing this breakdown was  – well – a pleasure actually! From beginning to end – the script, cast and staging team deliver. Not once was I left thinking,  “Is it nearly the interval?” which can sometimes be the case in such ‘living room’ settings.

Much was down to the excellent co-direction of Ray Cooney and Brian Godfrey who also appears as Roger Dixon. I am usually a little wary of directors who also act in the play, however, it worked. He pulled the focus in all of his scenes, which unfortunately were few and far between; he bounces off his fellow cast members and uses the space entirely to his advantage.

'Allo 'Allo's' Vicki Michelle left, Brian Godfrey centre and ex Blue Peter presenter Mark Curry in Ray Cooney's Wife Begins at Forty

Former Blue Peter presenter, Mark Curry as the utterly boring George Harper plays the role with ease (either he is a good actor or…). His quick paced dialogue, combined with shows of affection towards his wife Linda, allows us to empathise with both characters. We want them to win the fight to keep the romance alive. We want the couple to stay together; even when we find out he may not have always been the dedicated family man we first assume him to be.

Vicki Michelle first appears dressed in a Lycra Wonder Woman outfit, and good for her! She oozes confidence as she stands on stage as Linda Harper in the initial scene, whilst dancing around trying to seduce husband George. She captures the audience instantly, with a fun but also moving interpretation of the neglected wife.

Royce Mills’ comedic timing is second to none. He seems so comfortable on the stage – possibly due to the amount of time he’s spent treading the Arnaud boards during panto season. Anita Graham is interesting to watch as the fairly vague Betty Dixon, sometimes catching attention for all the wrong reasons! She could do with a little more focus – though there is a lovely moment of awkwardness between her and George when they bump into each other after the Harpers’ trial separation.

Making his professional debut, Richard Lowe depicts the carefree 16 year old son of Linda and George fantastically; dropping his posture, tilting his larynx and throwing away his lines just as a boy that age would do. Factors that all contribute to a great performance.

Despite the production not being as slick as I would have hoped for with such an experienced group of actors – a few lines were fumbled and a couple of pauses between scenes were just a little too lengthy; it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening out and I would highly recommend seeing this show before it closes on Saturday 28th April.

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