The Woman Who Cooked Her Husband
It is quite difficult to find a new take on the story of a man who leaves an old, jaded wife for a newer model. In her comedy, first produced ten years ago, Debbie Isitt (who also directs) attempts to add new life to this old subject.
The main selling point appears to be TV personality Daisy Donovan, as the younger woman who entices Michael Attwell's almost 50 year old Kenneth with the promise of a second youth. Sadly, these two characters are completely upstaged by a super performance from the very funny Alison Steadman as wronged wife, Hilary.
Miss Isitt is perceptive in her view that men want two completely different things that many women struggle to combine. Hilary can offer domestic skills and is a top cook. Miss Donovan's Laura has a waist and youth.
Ultimately, Kenneth wants to have his cake and eat it with a consequence that is rather predictable to anyone who has read the play's title. There is some fun to be enjoyed along the way though.
Robert Jones' staging is excellent. Everything is red and green. The older characters are kitted out like Robin Hood's merry men, though Kenneth bleeds red at the edges. Laura is the scarlet woman. The set is largely green with a red table cum bed that appears and disappears very effectively. A nice touch is the green fridge-freezer with plush red interior through which the characters enter and leave the stage.
There are some good comic moments and Miss Isitt's direction ensures that no scene lasts longer than about one minute. The verbal battles are interspersed with odd physical moments and mimed songs reminiscent of Dennis Potter screenplays. Debbie Isitt is also sometimes too adventurous for her own good, flinging literary and dramatic styles around with abandon but to no great purpose.
There is some serious doubt about the casting as the characters rarely gel. The play is really held together by Alison Steadman's professionalism.
If audience appreciation and participation is a key measure then this play may well be a great success. The pantomime-like reactions, including liberal hissing of poor Kenneth, led up to enthusaistic cheering and applause at the final curtain as he got his comeuppance.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher