Debbie Isitt’s play chronicling the breakdown of a marriage takes to the Playhouse stage until Saturday 14 July 2018
The Woman Who Cooked Her Husband, featuring a company of just 3 actors, tells the story of Hilary (Corinna Leeder) and her husband Kenneth (Jem Clack), and Kenneth’s affair and remarriage to Laura (Diane Wyman). It all kicks off with Hilary, lying across the dining table awaiting the arrival of Kenneth and Laura for dinner. She tells us calmly “I first decided to cook my husband the day he left me”, before leaping around the story of how that decision came about.
Kenneth leaves Hilary, somewhat reluctantly, and soon discovers that his new bride to be’s idea of dinner is him making his own sandwiches. Finding himself in a house that’s not kept clean, and not being cooked the hearty meals he’s used to, he begins to wander back to Hilary’s for dinner behind Laura’s back.
The script, sadly, feels dated – without a clear visual cue to the era (one would assume 60s or 70s?), we were transported to an age where women are meant for the kitchen, and what use are they if they can’t cook? Isitt’s play was only written 25 years ago, and while I appreciate times have definitely changed with regards to equality, I can’t picture a 1993 audience appreciating Kenneth’s attitude to either of the women in his life.
Kenneth is so vile a character, that the fact that two women are falling over themselves for him seems a slight on them. Their “victory” falls flat when you realise that Isitt appears to be attempting to pin this as feminist justice, when in fact it does more to belittle the female characters than it does Kenneth.
Despite the vitriol aimed at each other on the page, the anger never really seemed to find the stage – Hilary and Kenneth’s arguments never reached the fever pitch they deserved, instead simmering around the “loud voices” end of the row spectrum. There are some nice moments, however; all three performers deliver their monologues with humour and excellent pace – Laura’s rants being a particular highlight. The actors rarely leave the stage, and while the “imaginary props” are a real bugbear of mine, Ben Knight‘s direction was, on the whole, neatly done, keeping the performance at a good pace, despite the frequent changes in location.
The set was simple, the moving of location demanded it to be so, but I must admit to not understanding the need for the hula hoops pinned to each wall.
A bit of an odd choice of production – The Playhouse has a capable company of actors to hand, but they deserve far better plays to perform.
Production: Thurs 12 July 2018, The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton
The Woman Who Cooked Her Husband runs until Saturday 14 July 2018. For tickets and more information visit www.playhousenorthampton.com
Rebecca is a theatre lover originally from Birmingham. She founded On Stage Northants in 2017, and is passionate about promoting Northampton performing arts. Can usually be found behind the scenes, and occasionally in front of them too. Bec also runs Rebel Peacock Creative Media.