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A right agreeable evening's entertainment

You could do no better than spend the evening in the Rugby Theatre this week.

Senga Veasey’s production of this social satire is a perfect antidote to gloomy autumn nights.

J B Priestley’s comedy of manners, and mannerisms, spikes a number of targets. First performed in1938 but set in a stuffy Edwardian England of 1908 he pokes fun at the incongruities of North and South, young and old, nouveau rich and poor, master and servant, men and women , husbands and wives, middle and lower class.

The curtain opens to scratchy wind up gramophone music revealing a finely detailed set from Mike Derville and his team. The costumes and wigs of Jay Lad and Kelly Taylor add to the authenticity before a word is spoken.

The cast then maintain seemingly flawless northern accents (though some Yorkshire pedants may disagree) and the audience can relax knowing they are in safe hands.

Priestley’s script is particularly barbed in places when dissecting the institution of marriage and some of the universal themes are quite modern.

The evening has many laughs and punchy lines ,delivered with great comic timing by the accomplished cast, and much appreciated by the audience in the spirit of “The Good Old Days”.

The principals are well chosen for their roles with patrician Alderman Helliwell, played by Steve Crump and Bev Avis-Dakin as Mrs Annie Parker particularly comfortable in their chosen skin.

John Dulcamara plays boozy Argus photographer Henry Ormonroyd with just the right level of unbalance. There are some fine set pieces with groups of characters isolated together to discuss the unfolding dilemma of their marriage status.

The three wives show properly outraged discomfort and Helen Dulcamara’s stroppy housekeeper, Mrs Northrop and Alison Hart’s blousy Lottie Grady hover, ready to exploit the situation as the comfy façade crumbles around them.

Despite a slight dip in energy just before the final resolution, the company are to be congratulated on maintaining the pace through a long second half. Thankfully for the married couples all ends well and sanity is restored, though with some role reversals as a consequence.

Appropriately there is even a spontaneous music hall sing along in the final act. As Alderman Helliwell might say, a right agreeable evening’s entertainment.

Pictured: Gary van Sluiters as Herbert Soppitt, Christopher Allen-Mason as Gerald Forbes, and Keith Norfolk as Councillor Albert Parker

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