A review by Bernie Whelan for EXTRA! EXTRA!



Anderson Productions presents



Conjugal Rites



by Roger Hall



Directed by Andrew Keates



Courtyard Theatre



31 May - 3 July 2011



It is easy to see how this play morphed into a television situation comedy, as it portrays the mid life crises of the genre's demographic audience - baby boomers who have raised their children and find themselves sharing a bed with someone they don't particularly like after twenty-one years of marriage. The sexual politics are there too, Gen (Alexadra Boyd) is a recently qualified family solicitor spreading her wings outside the home, hungry for financial and emotional independence from the family, while husband Barry (Gary Heron) is a dentist who wants things to stay just as they've always been; the kids may have grown up but he still wants Gen to look after him.

The set (by Merlin Daly) conjured the homely nest of the middle-class marital bedroom with doors for both members of the cast to bang on each side of the bed. Costumes (by Freya Groves) varied from smart suits for Gen on her way to and from court, to her M&S type night attire mirrored by her husband's similarly generic outfits. As it is early in the run, perhaps a few stumbles over the lines are understandable, but given the polished appearance of the production and the experience of the actors on stage, the overall performance was disappointingly tedious, with no real chemistry between the couple. The jokes were too far too obvious to be funny. There was almost no reaction, other than tired acceptance, when the fact that they had both been having affairs was openly discussed. It is Gen's final emotional vulnerability, after her father's death and the loss of a custody battle to an abusive mother, that brings her back to Barry's arms.

Perhaps men and women who have spent much of their lives together do end up with petty bean-counting and bickering about domestic arrangements. One could argue that these are the things that real intimacy is built on. However, the characters in this play are just too stereotypical to be interesting and watching them annoy each other wasn't entertaining, it was just annoying.


Courtyard Theatre
Courtyard Walk, The Bowling Green, Pitfield Street, London N1 6EU
Tues -Sun: 7.30pm
Tickets: £15, £13 concs
Box Office: 0844 477 1000

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