It's Never Too Late

Ron Aldridge
An Ian Dickens production
Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, and touring
(2010)

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The Village Hall committee are seated around a table in the living room of Susan Shaw’s Victorian house, but business is suspended while they listen with concern to Susan’s telephone conversation - and she’s very angry. Her husband, after 37 years of marriage, has left her for a younger model and now wants a divorce. After a life as homemaker and bringing up their children things will have to change. What will she do now?

It’s never too late to change your life, and her friends on the committee, anxious to help, each offer advice - learn to be selfish, don’t change at all, get a toy-boy, be the pigeon not the statue - and she manages to achieve almost every one, although the toy-boy offer is quite a surprise.

Real-life husband and wife, Jeffrey Holland and Judy Buxton, play Peter and Linda Bridges, with Buxton’s exquisitely svelte figure and dress sense contrasting strongly with the rather frumpish style of Joanna Van Gyseghem’s Susan. There was a lot of delighted laughter from the audience (particularly the women but the men were not far behind) when Susan was desperately trying to emulate Linda’s exercise regime, obviously bringing back memories of their own attempts. Even more joyous laughter as she appeared resplendent in a new frock, underpinned by “an over-efficient corsetry contraption with a rather restricting gusset”. Looking good is not without its problems!

A lot of the humour is aimed at Susan’s recalcitrant husband - “Women need a reason for sex; men just need a place” - and it is the women who come out on top with the best lines, perfectly performed, timed and delivered by Buxton and Van Gyseghem, although the men have their moments too.

Philip York’s Henry, a very correct gentleman who has always held a torch for Susan, has to be helped up from his knees. Michael Shaw’s Thomas talks in mathematics, statistics and percentages and takes out his notebook to write down ‘how to impress a woman’ but is hilarious when he attempts ‘mean and moody’, and Holland’s Peter is a very ‘normal’ husband, “the world’s expert at very selective hearing’.

David North’s set is very similar to the one for Fatal Encounter and just as beautifully elegant, with lighting to enhance.

Ian Dickens Productions have five national tours this year and four separate repertory seasons. The logistics of organising these must be a mind-boggling mammoth task, yet Dickens seems to take it all in his stride, the productions following each other with such rapidity (the last one at this venue was Fatal Encounter at the beginning of February) that I sometimes wonder how they manage to find time to put a show together at all, let alone fit in rehearsals. However they are usually undemanding yet very entertaining and this one is no exception - a gentle comedy with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, and whatever rehearsal time they had was put to good use with all performers comfortable and convincing in their roles and direction perfectly paced with the laughter far outweighing the inevitable tears.

Touring to Horsham, Cheltenham, Wolverhampton and Swansea

Reviewer: Sheila Connor