The Northern Broadsides, famed for their distinctive northern accents and the accessibility of their productions, are back with their latest touring production – J B Priestley’s classic comedy, When We Are Married.
Set in Cleckleywyke in Bradford in 1908, the Helliwells, the Parkers and the Soppitts are celebrating their 25 th silver wedding anniversary. Except there’s a catch; they soon discover that the vicar who married them wasn’t licensed and these respected members of society have actually been living in sin for the past 25 years!
This is a play that is perfectly suited to the Northern Broadsides. It is a farcical comedy with authentic characters that seems to be cut out for the charming, masterful production company.
With a cast of 15 (including the Company Stage Manager Andy Hall), the production features a number of characters from the below stairs staff to the drunken photographer, all portrayed superbly by this talented cast.
Artistic Director Barrie Rutter, who founded the company in 1992, has directed and starred in the play. There seems to be no end to Rutter’s talents as the last time I saw him play King Lear, a stark contrast to his delightfully funny character; the tipsy photographer Henry Ormonroyd.
All three couples caught up in the matrimonial turmoil were a joy to watch, and incredibly funny. Adrian Hood, his first production for the Northern Broadsides, has downed tools from the last role I saw him in, Godber’s Poles Apart, and taken up the tuxedo as Councillor Albert Parker. His comedic timing and on stage rapport with the audience was en pointe as always.
Kate Anthony (Doctors, Casualty) was particularly funny as sour-faced Clara Soppitt with the sharp delivery of her quick-witted dialogue. Opposite her Steve Huison was the complete reverse as the timid, trodden down Herbert Soppitt who finds his voice and comes into his own at the end of the play.
Sue Devaney stepped into the role of long-suffering wife Annie Parker and is notably exceptional in the scene in which she confronts her husband. Kat Rose-Martin has the audience in stitches every time she walks on and off the stage as the talkative maid Ruby Birtle. Accompanying her is Lisa Howard as nosey Mrs Northrop who too is sure to have you giggling as she learns of the three couples’ secret.
This is a classic example of Victorian comedy that is accessible to all ages and to those from all different walks of life. The Northern Broadsides may be fantastic at hard hitting drama but they are also brilliant at side-splitting comedy.