Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Laughs pass the test of time


Run for Your Wife

Grange Players

Grange Playhouse, Walsall


ANYBODY can be forgiven for going over the top if it's in a good cause – and the cause couldn't be better than this Ray Cooney farce, which moves from the rib-tickling to the uproarious, with lots of political incorrectness in between.

It has been about since 1983, but it is only in its uninhibited attitude to homosexuality that it reveals that it has been with us for so long. It is very, very funny, played here for all it's worth by a first-class company without a weak link as its characters tie themselves in knots with mistaken identities, doubles entendres, heavy breathing and a generous abundance of prat-falls.

It is the story of John Smith, a  taxi driver with a home and a wife in Wimbledon – and another home and a wife in Streatham. He has a good friend in Stanley (Adam Worton) and it is he who is surely in line for a bruise or two by the end of the run, because he produces an armoury of accidents involving him in going horizontal, unpremeditatedly and rapidly, at a moment's notice.

He is also affronted at being mistaken for a homosexual and is at pains to point out that he sometimes has problems in convincing people that he is homo sapiens.

This is the joyous role of a much put-upon buddy and in a non-stop performance he shakes it until it froths.

As the taxi driver whose troubles start when a mugging and a bump on the head knock his two-wife timetable out of schedule, Adrian Venables is a joy of perspiring desperation; a pawn of fate whose efforts to keep ahead of his day of reckoning have an air of inspired inventiveness – though he knows, and we know, that justice will eventually be seen to be done.


Then there are the two wives, Mary (Rachel Garratt) and Barbara (Kate Rock). Somehow, they are kept apart for most of the action – which finds one of them being sexy without success and the other having magnificent tantrums and being mistaken for a nun. Again, these are two roles that are fully exploited – as, indeed, they have to be, because this is a farce that takes no prisoners.

And still there's more. George Singh brings a limp wrist and a mincing stride as the very friendly neighbour who is trying to paint his bathroom, and Adam Woodward is the detective sergeant who is determined to explore the mystery of two John Smiths who have both been taken to hospital with concussion while driving their taxis. For his trouble, he finds himself parading in a frilly pinafore.

Then there's the newspaper photographer. Briefly, at high speed, this is Fiona Costley, whose clicking camera causes consternation for the man who has ever-decreasing hopes of keeping his double life dark.

This is the moment that adds to the fun of the evening but which is in fact the particularly improbable incident – because newspapers which know nothing of two homes, two wives and double lives just don't send out a photographer to take a picture of a taxi driver who has bumped his head.

It matters not.  This is lunacy writ large, a beautifully-written romp, exploited to the full on a fine set whose doors open and close right on cue – although one of them, having been, er, locked, came open all by itself on the fun-filled first night. It's a must-see. To 22-01-11

John Slim

Meanwhile run for your other review . . .


AT the double! This Ray Clooney farce about a London cabbie with two wives and separate homes is a taxing experience for a fine cast and a laugh a minute for the audience.

John Smith seems to be coping well with the deception - thanks to shift working - until he goes to the assistance of a woman being mugged, suffers a head injury which requires hospital treatment, and police call at both flats in the course of their inquiries.

That triggers a whole range of hilarious incidents in which the cast of eight dart in and out of various doors, dive over furniture or leap into each others arms, and the perspiration this causes is visible from the back row of the theatre.

Adrian Venables, the trapped taxi driver, gives a thoroughly convincing performance trying the wriggle out of the mess, while Rachel Garratt and Kate Rock excel as the unsuspecting wives, Mary and Barbara, and the set, cleverly designed by Martin Groves to represent both homes, is a major factor in giving the complicated story a bit of realism.

Adam Worton shows amazing athleticism as neighbour Stanley Gardner who is caught up in the mayhem. The scene where he tears up a newspaper to hide a revealing photograph and produces a string of hand-clasping paper figures, rightly earns instant applause.

Chris Waters and Adam Woodward are the confused cops whose separate investigations stumbles on yet more confusion with the arrival of gay neighbour Bobby Franklin, well played by George Singh.

The fun is directed by David Stone and produced by Julie Lomas. To 22-01-11

Paul Marston  

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