The Shaw Festival once again exceeds their mandate, providing incisive social commentary and flawlessly maintaining their “world class” status. Written by J.B. Priestely and directed by Joseph Ziegler, When We Are Married portrays a comedic situation of utmost “peculiar” satire. Three elite couples gather to celebrate their silver wedding anniversaries, only to discover that their marriages were never authorized. Seated within the sitting room of Alderman Helliwell’s fictional Cleckeywyke home, the humour unravels and consumes you.
As historical significance is of grave importance, a basic understanding from the audience is vital to better enjoy the performance. Although the script is timeless in its essence, the audience tended to disappear in laughter at times, to the extent that the larger satirical message was often lost. The very nature of Priestley’s satire revolves around the social criticism of elected officials in England at the turn of the century, portrayed through use of haughty arrogance and pompous farce amongst the ‘elite’ characters. ‘Common’ characters of less noble status continually resurface throughout the play, with Mrs. Northrop (Mary Haney), Henry Ormonroyd (Peter Krantz), and Lottie Grady (Fiona Byrne) serving to please and to entertain the contrast of classes. The satire educates as the perfect prescription for comic chaos.
The production is perfectly predictable in a manner that supersedes all other approaches. Audiences are constantly alert, anticipating the next lines, entrances, and situations. The ongoing engagement invites theatregoers into the entangled world of this troublesome ‘elite.’ The satire is brilliantly emphasized and highlighted throughout, immediately taking precedence with the couples’ onslaught of endless appetizers and scones.
The design, in all its glory, was released of the homeowner’s darkened stature and replaced with utmost beauty. From the ornate staircase to the stained glass harbouring doorways, everything was spot on. Scenic Designer, Ken MacDonald, brings fiction to life and transforms the stage of the Royal George Theatre into nothing less than grand. Nothing from the design was left without sincere speculation, aiding the enjoyment of the production overall. The costumes, designed by Sue LePage, were both accurate and fanciful; they created a true understanding of the characters’ positions within the play.
The comedy is endless. Director Joseph Ziegler is hereby heralded for his successful deliverance of Priestley from beginning to end, with tremendous transitional flow throughout. The relationship and dynamic of Adlerman Joseph Helliwell (Thom Marriott), Councillor Albert Parker (Patrick McManus), and Herbert Soppitt (Patrick Galligan) equally calibrate with that of the women’s triage to produce over two hours of reliable amusement. Audiences will fall in love with these characters over and once more, thus proving the timelessness of the entire piece.
When We Are Married is playing as part of the Shaw Festival, running to October 26 at the Royal George Theatre. For tickets and more information, please visit Shaw’s website at www.shawfest.com.