Many will be familiar with Priestley’s An Inspector Calls (given that it has been on the GCSE syllabus as far back as most can remember) and comparisons can be made with When We Are Married: both are disdainful of the British class system, particularly those in the upper echelons of it (or who wish to be in the upper echelons of it) and both come with the clear message that public appearance isn’t everything. However, where An Inspector Calls doles these messages out in stark truths and dark, forbidding monologues, When We Are Married is an altogether jollier affair. Three couples who were married on the same day, in the same church, by the same officiator, gather to celebrate their 25th anniversary, only to be brought some rather distressing news: the officiator wasn’t official in any sense of the word and none of them are properly married. They’ve been living in sin for the past quarter of a century. Cue hilarity as reputations are fretted over, rash decisions are made and a fair few home truths are spoken.
The man behind Northern Broadsides is Barrie Rutter OBE, who founded the theatre company in the early 1990s with an ambition to perform Shakespeare and other classics in his own native Yorkshire accent. When We Are Married is the perfect vehicle for such a goal as there’s only one character from outside Yorkshire in it. Having seen his performance, as photographer Henry Ormonroyd, it is easy to see why he has been honoured for his dramatic work and has so many accolades to his name. He draws the eye every time he takes to the stage, with every word spoken clearly and the punchlines to his numerous gags delivered with expert timing.
Barrie’s is not one of the principal roles in the production, however. His is a smaller role which he performs in addition to his role as Director. Here again, he shows his expertise as every inch of stage is used to its fullest potential while the audience is never left in doubt or confusion as to what is going on. In a similar fashion to An Inspector Calls, the action takes place in one room with people frequently coming and going. The direction is able to manage all this traffic without the play ever feeling frenetic or rushed.
Another excellent performance is turned in by Kat Rose-Martin who plays youngster Ruby Birtle with impeccable wit and timing. She really does capture the bright, cheeky nature of the character perfectly and had the audience smiling from the start.
The cast as a whole are very enjoyable to watch. Adrian Hood, as Councillor Albert Parker, gets a good few laughs through portraying his character’s pompous manner in tremendous fashion, while Steve Huison is very convincing as hen-pecked husband Herbert Soppitt. Sue Devaney, Mark Stratton, Geraldine Fitzgerald and Kate Anthony make up the rest of the principal six characters and do so with great aplomb, ably joined by a good supporting cast. Each manages to get a laugh in there somewhere and all are extremely convincing.
A huge factor in making this play a success is the cast’s Yorkshire accents. By keeping the same turn of phrase that Priestley imagined when he penned the script, an air of real life pervades the production. The audience recognises characters like the socially climbing Councillor Albert Parker and the feisty Mrs Northrop from their own lives, and relate to the humanising qualities of each character from Henry’s sage attitude to life to Ruby’s mischievous curiosity.
Having seen the production and heard the laugh-out-loud audience reaction it garnered, there can be little doubt that this play is set to be a great success – particularly in its home county. When We Are Married has the following Yorkshire dates remaining:
27 September – 1 October at the Hull Truck Theatre
18 – 22 October at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds
25 – 29 October at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough
29 November – 10 December at The Viaduct in Halifax
For more information, visit www.northernbroadsides.co.uk.