When We Were Married

Date 15th March 2024
Society Wigan Little Theatre
Venue Wigan Little Theatre
Type of Production Play
Director Catherine Finch
Written By JB Priestley


Author: Patricia Connor

It is sometime since I last had the pleasure of seeing “When We Were Married” written by J B Priestley and I wondered if I may find it be a bit dated, but happily my worries were totally unfounded as to my surprise I had actually forgotten just how enjoyable and funny this play is. It is full of quick pace humour, wonderful Northern characters and is very cleverly written. Directed by Catherine Finch, this outstanding production from Wigan Little Theatre was full of laugh out loud comedy with excellent acting and an impressive set making for a very entertaining evening.

Set in the Helliwell’s sitting room in the year 1908, the play is centred around three married couples who are all celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary together as they were married on the same day in the same church by the same preacher. However, even though they are in the middle of their celebrations, the three couples have another matter to settle, over the years they had risen to prominence as leaders within the local church and they really want to get rid of Gerald Forbes, the church organist who is too "la-di-da" and has been seen out with a girl at night, which was considered rather shocking in that day and age, so they invite Gerald to attend a meeting where they hope to sack him. What they do not know is that "the girl" Gerald has been seen out with is none other than the Halliwell’s niece Nancy who actually lives with them. Gerald is also holding a trump card, as while on holiday in Wales he met the preacher who married the couples and he gave Gerald some shocking information, which he then backed up with a letter, confessing that when he married the couples he was newly ordained and unfortunately had omitted to get the relevant forms signed, so he was not qualified to officiate at their weddings, meaning their marriages were invalid and they were not actually married.  After the shock of receiving this information the couples realise they will be socially embarrassed and their lives will be turned upside down. For the hen-pecked Herbert Soppitt  the situation gives him the chance to assert himself against his domineering wife Clara Soppitt and for Maria Helliwell and Annie Parker, they see the prospect of liberation from their husbands who are a mixture of miserly, dull, pompous men and in Joe Halliwell’s case also has casual affairs.Then with the arrival of some unexpected colourful visitors which included a newspaper reporter and photographer confusion and mayhem ensue  

What a great comedy this was made even greater by the wonderfully talented cast who produced some great characters and without exception played their parts superbly with no weak links appearing to work together as a team. The cast included Emma Appleton as Maria Helliwell, Maggie Hall as Annie Parker, and Veronica Teesdale as Clara Soppitt. The three husbands included Joey Wiswell who played the intellectual and philandering Joe Helliwell, Mark Lloyd played Counsellor Albert Parker, who was stingy dull and opinionated. Peter Jones played Herbert Soppitt who was dominated by his wife. The Helliwell’s niece, Nancy, was played by Jess Sinclair and Alex Lafferty was her lover and church organist Gerald. There were other important wonderful comedic characters which included Maria Lowe in the role of maid Ruby who was delightfully blunt with unintentional candour and Paul Dawson played Henry Ormonroyd, who become more inebriated and funnier as the paly moved on. Maria and Paul also made a very good double act at times. Jean Delaney as Mrs Northrop was the eavesdropping and unruly but funny housekeeper and Nicola Reynolds was Lottie Joe Halliwell’s bit on the side who turns up when she hears about Joe’s marital status as he had promised to marry her if he wasn’t already married. Then we have Garry Fishwick as the quintessential vicar, Darren Robertson was Fred Dyson the newspaper reporter and finally we have Ian Sharples as the Mayor.All the cast kept in character all the way through the production and the pace of the play was just right, dialogue could be heard and easily followed, and accents were good.

There was just one excellently designed set by Catherine Finch which was beautifully dressed with period furniture and props that were just right for the era the play was set in, a great deal of thought must have gone into getting things right. Costumes were colourful and were just right for the characters adding authenticity to the production, the performance area and the action on stage were enhanced by some well-designed and operated lighting and sound. Well, done Stage manager John Naughton and all the set builders, painters, props, wardrobe, prompt and all backstage crew.

Congratulation to everyone involved in this outstanding production which did have a happy ending after lessons were learned and some changes made to relationship's. My friend and I had a lovely enjoyable evening.