PREVIEW DISCLAIMER: This performance was a preview. And this disclaimer is the disclaimer.
It was the productions of J.B. Priestley dramas in the last couple of years that made me want to have a look at his very popular comedy (the programme shows it's regularly revived in London.) Set in a town near Bradford in 1908, three couples who got married on the same day are celebrating their silver wedding anniversaries, when they receive the shocking news that the vicar who married them wasn't properly registered at the time, and they've spent the last 25 years "living in sin." The couples go about trying to solve the problem, or at least stop the news from spreading, but the news that they're not really married makes a couple of them start thinking about whether they've really been happy all these years.
There's a very experienced cast of familiar faces, many from classic sitcoms - Lynda Barron, Roy Hudd, Sam Kelly, Maureen Lipman and Michele Dotrice are among the cast - and their experience does show. The play takes a while to warm up but this might be down to it still being in previews. By the third act I was smiling a lot but only occasionally laughing. The casting does suggest a "safe" production aimed at middle-aged theatregoers who want an unchallenging night out, and I guess I can't complain if that's what it delivers, but Christopher Luscombe's production feels incredibly unadventurous and old-fashioned. Having seen the interesting approaches taken to Priestley's dramas recently, it's a shame not to see something equivalent in this comedy. Still, he's assembled a cast that could do this in their sleep, but who to their credit seem to be putting the effort in, and even early in the preview period this is already looking slick, and is intermittently entertaining. And considering the one line she's most famous for delivering, it's quite funny to see Susie Blake speaking in a Northern accent.
When We Are Married by J.B. Priestley is booking until the 26th of February at the Garrick Theatre.