Gislingham Variety Club’ chose appropriately to celebrate their own silver jubilee by staging for their April production, the classic play by J.B.Priestley, When We Are Married. This centres on three couples celebrating their joint 25 years wedding anniversaries with a ‘bit of a do’. Then unwelcome news turns their world upside down.
Set in Edwardian ‘Cleckleywyke’ (Bradford) with a theme that to modern audiences might seem old fashioned with its emphasis on class, privilege, snobbery and, hypocrisy with the families typifying a strata in society who have prospered and achieved social status but most important of all – respectability. To discover on the actual night of their silver wedding celebrations, the marriages were null and void, pricks their balloon of pomposity with the mightiest of bangs
To say this was a daunting play for the players to perform was an understatement but they rose to the challenge magnificently with extensive quick fire dialogue and needle sharp timing that delivered undoubtedly one of the best productions staged by the Gislingham Variety Club.
Produced by Donna Ronayne and directed jointly by Michael Stevenson and Richard Adams who also played with great panache Alderman Joe Helliwell, the cast also included Ian Baird (borrowed from the Framlingham Amateur Dramatic Society) as the ‘stingy’ Councilor Albert Parker, Paul Heeks the downtrodden Herbert Soppitt whose worm turning moment when he slaps the face of his harridan wife Clara played with uncanny realism by Karen Rainbird bought a roar of audience approval. The other wives excelled too capturing the period niceties with Clare Adams and Rosie Mackenzie -Stephen as Maria Helliwell and Annie Parker respectively.
Michelle Holden purred through her role as glamorous Lottie Grady with a shady secret from the past. Marion Simpson’s irascible housekeeper Mrs. Northrop had her usual keen eye for characterisation whilst Ondrea Ward gave the maid Ruby Birtle a lovely light dotty touch.
Elizabeth Botting as Nancy Holmes and Luke Ronayne, the ‘la di da’ chapel organist Gerald Forbes, were ideally matched as the romantic interest whilst Richard Pursehouse managed to combine journalism with the cloth in his dual roles of reporter Fred Dyson and later the Rev Clement Mercer.
Portraying inebriation subtly is a skill few actors achieve but Scott Ronayne pitched his portrayal of ‘slightly tipsy’ press photographer Henry Ormonroyd with both pathos and humour.
This was an outstanding performance taking Gislingham Variety Clubs professionalism to a new level.