NODA review of The Woman Who Cooked Her Husband

Review by Richard Fitt

Performance on 6th October 2022

Director: Zandra Saxby

This show replaced the scheduled one which unfortunately had to be postponed due to unforeseen circumstances. It was therefore chosen bearing in mind the reduced rehearsal time left, its simplicity to stage, together with the fact it had relatively recently been performed by the same cast. And, what a brilliant little fill in comedy it was!

The story with a cast of three is the very dictionary definition of male chauvinistic piggery. The husband, Kenneth, played by David Mander, who has been married to Hilary, played by Sarah Stringer for 19 years and of whose cooking he can’t get enough. The bedroom side of their marriage has however somewhat cooled over the years and when opportunity beckons, he embarks on an affair with Laura, played by Annette Codrington, who very much satisfies him in that department but can’t boil an egg to save her life. Kenneth, of course, being overtly keen on his stomach tries to have the best of both worlds, whilst promising Laura he will leave Hilary, but cannot bring himself to leave her cooking until eventually being forced to do so. The play, after a monologue from Hilary whilst lying prone on her dining table telling the audience when she first decided to cook her husband, opens with Ken and his new wife Laura coming to dinner with Hilary. The rest of the play is a series of flashbacks showing how they arrived at this scenario.

The set by Kevin Beirne, Gerry Stafford and Brian Wood was simplicity itself, a table and chairs, with purple tablecloth stage right for Hilary’s dining room; table, with purple cloth stage left which served as Laura’s bed, No props or set dressing whatsoever, but everything was set in coordinated purple including the actors costumes. The two ladies in purple blouses and Ken in a purple shirt and even Hilary’s apron and hairband was patterned in purple. Not quite sure why, but it did look effective and made a talking point amongst the various members of the audience with whom I engaged.

Lighting by Dave King assisted by Graham Stringer needed to be spot on, and was, with each dining or bedroom scene very specifically lit, a fair amount of monologues to be spot lit, whilst the actors, not in any particular scene, were hidden in the shadows with their backs to the audience. Cleverly done.

Mark Luckin on the sound desk was also in fine form with, again, all musical cues and songs absolutely spot on.

This was a very well directed show by Zandra Saxby who certainly got the best out of her very confident and competent cast. The use of mime for everything was particularly superb and the scene where Ken is eating at Hilary’s table then catching the bus and then rushing round to Laura’s dropping his trousers as he jumps on the bed, repeated over and over and getting more frenetic was comedy genius and will stick long in the memory, A well deserved round of applause greeted the end of that breath taking scene. Ken miming eating and his Elvis impersonation or Laura doing her nails whilst having sex were equally comic example of the artform.

All three actors, but particularly the ladies had long monologues to the audience, which were sublimely delivered with confidence personified, not to our knowledge was a beat missed or the breakneck pace dropped at any time! Simply top drawer professional work by these three quality actors. To be hyper critical, a little more time to allow for laughter at times might not have gone amiss as some very funny lines were occasionally lost.

I have to admit the undefined date of the storyline in this day and age of emancipated womanhood took some getting used to, it was like watching something more akin to my parents’ generation where the ‘little woman’s’ job was to stay at home and tend to every need of her man. This was even more surprising when my research revealed the book is dated 1994 and the subsequent play was first performed in 2001.

Well done, Sharnbrook, you certainly came up with a brilliant alternative at the last minute for the original scheduled production, we laughed all the way home. I look forward to seeing Isitt’s ‘Nativity’ in late November, early December. Finally, thank you to Gary Villiers and the FOH team for your usual hospitality.