REVIEW: Hope’s drama group delivers a grand night out

When We Are Married production by HADIT
When We Are Married production by HADIT

Hope Amateur Dramatic Independent Theatre (HADIT) provided laughs galore in their production of J.B. Priestley’s well-loved comedy, When We Are Married, writes Margaret Coupe.

Three respectable Yorkshire couples discover on their joint silver wedding anniversary that, through a technicality, they are not in fact married.

The resulting chaos in Clecklewyke, a wool town loosely based on Bradford, gives the playwright ample opportunity to expose the pretension, hypocrisy and smugness of the middle class,

Set designers Carolyn and David Garwes with their construction team created an Edwardian sitting room perfectly: aspidistras, antimacassars, velvet curtains and sepia photographs conveyed an image of prosperous respectability, cushioned from the world outside. The costumes complemented the set, giving an impression of starched, buttoned-up formality, creating a sense that keeping up appearances is of prime importance.

The bombshell about the illegal marriages was delivered with barely suppressed glee by the new la-di-dah organist (Danny Washington) and this ‘right to-do’ allowed the audience to see the fault-lines and power plays in the three central relationships.

Alderman Helliwell was played with bluff, bluster and a booming voice by Jon Haddock. Sheree Smallwood gave a convincing performance as his no-nonsense wife, who thought the working class was bone idle.

Paul Archer’s portrayal of Councillor Albert Parker, a pompous windbag and ‘swankpot’ was a tour de force. Annie, his wife (Sue Shearsmith), really came into her own in a showdown when, after 25 years of being spoken at, she told him he was dreary and stingy.

Tim Smallwood’s comic timing was spot on in the role of hen-pecked Herbert Soppitt. Janet Skirrow’s performance as his constantly outraged and exasperated wife Clara was equally strong.

The working-class characters played their parts well. Fourteen-year-old Charlie Haddock was Ruby, the pert maid, who seemed to be always on the verge of laughter at the antics of her elders and betters. She delivered her role with assurance and a lovely Yorkshire accent.

Jim Driver shone as inebriated photographer Henry Ormonroyd, and Jane Bramwell was highly entertaining as man-eater Lottie Grady. Straight-talking charlady Mrs Northrop (Jackie Topping) did a good line in puncturing the self-importance of her bosses.

In the smallest parts, Martin Chapman did well in his cameo as a local reporter eying up the port and cigars, Neive Sheridan was charming as the organist’s love interest, and Nick Williams hammed it up with gusto as a mad parson.

Priestley’s play was first performed in 1938. He said that he hoped it would provide a distraction from the state of Europe for an hour or two. Thank you to the HADIT team for giving us maximum mirth and a much-needed break from Brexit!