Ecclesall Theatre Company’s Run For Your Wife – 11 May 2024, Ecclesall Parish Hall

Review by Louise Taylor.

Ecclesall Theatre Company (ETC) are not afraid to take on vintage or retro plays and genres. Earlier this year I saw their production of Alan Ayckbourn’s “Table Manners” so I knew I was in for a treat when I went along to see their matinee performance of “RFYW” a lovely romp of a farce by Ray Cooney. In my past experience with acting in amateur dramatics, I know that the genre in question needs to be played straight and all characters must go about their business as if it’s the most natural thing in the world, be serious and committed to the roles and work as a team. So knowing this old farce was going to be a serious do, I was hoping to see ETC deliver pace, comic timing, honesty, compassion and humour. I am delighted to say that they did!

The play was set and kept in the 1980s, as a child in this era, an age of interesting interior decor, chintz and bright colours. Fashions were adhered to, the eye-catching teal dress as worn by Barbara Smith (Sian Butler-Walsh) and the eclectic work-out/DIY kit as worn by Bobby Franklin (Paul Voodini) were fitting for their characters. A split set was marked out with the interiors of two London flats, the homes of Mr Smith and the two Mrs Smiths. A sofa centrally placed was the key to each room with different telephones on coffee tables each side. Add to this the symmetrical doors and we were presented with lots of detail to look at. My friend commented on how nice this all looked and even the detail of the exterior views and skirting boards.

So the continuity was set. As the opening music started, we were then engaged with synchronised actions of the two Mrs Smiths (played with charm and poise, wit and humour by Kiera Rhodes and Sian Butler-Walsh), as they entered from each side, picked up a phone, made a call and pondered the disappearance of their devotedly loyal spouse, John Smith. Cue laughter and we’re off. I enjoyed watching all the characters as they interacted with each other and over phone calls. There was an energy on stage and it was a good piece of a team ensemble.

Things to note as a Southerner living in Sheffield : Accents! These are like marmite to actors. I was delighted to hear a Southern accent, not too far off the Thames. It’s often crossed my mind what drama societies down South do when they do Northern plays. I know it’s hard to perfect an accent so all efforts to have a go is a good thing. Especially in Sheffield. Those vowel sounds were luvly on stage. I must mention that young man, Adam Diskin cast as the cheeky chappy John Smith. He carried the role vocally and physically adept with the sofa choreography. His on stage chemistry with both wives was genuine. His chemistry with fellow actor Tom Rymer (in the role of the put upon neighbour, Stanley Gardner) was spot on. The two of them kept straight faces as they told lie upon lie to cover up John’s double life. As the chaos and mayhem grew, the audience were laughing and we were all keeping up with the farce. Rehearsals must have been fun. The thing about this genre is getting all the entrances and exits right, being focused and making the characters real. We saw excellent facial expressions from all the cast, but also when the two detectives (played charmingly by Graham Millar and Paul Webb) realised what was actually happening and tried to outwit and undo the web of lies.

Paul Webb had fewer entrances but all of them were colourful and his characterisation of the darling upstairs neighbour were hilarious. I must mention Sian’s outfits. She oozed confidence and those heels.

We saw a brief but key appearance of the press reporter/photographer as played by Sue Preston. I had thought she might pop her head near the window but then realised that the flats were quite high up, so she sneaked in. I’d seen good reviews all week on the social media and I really enjoyed the final performance. I can’t wait to see what they do next.

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