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Papa C Productions present



Recipe for a Perfect Wife


Directed by Nadia Papachronopoulou


Produced by Christina McCulloch


King’s Head Theatre


18 August –   4 September 2010








A review by Richard J Thornton for EXTRA! EXTRA!


 The beauty of the King’s Head theatre is its versatility. It’s cosy, friendly yet oddly spacious nature means it suits 20 plus casts and one-man romps alike. And it’s the theatre’s thick intimacy and common spirit that facilitate this pop-up, devised comic-musical, Recipe For a Perfect Wife.

Set in a 1950’s studio kitchen, the ‘studio’ audience are presented with a believably greasy and Buddy-Holly-bespectacled host, Hugh, and his prim to a teacup ever-smiling wife, Sue. The premise: to find Britain’s perfect (house) wife, and as it turns out, as you might expect from the era, ‘house’ really is the operative word. The format is simple: five wives, two hosts, one game-show (peppered with faux-fifties adverts) and enough beaming teeth to make a dentist faint. Filled with polished ‘50’s idioms, and of-the-time sexism and racism, the play casually tosses away political correctness as if it hadn’t been invented yet (oh wait, it hadn’t). The language is comme il faut for the period which means it neither mars nor sparkles: it’s predicable, and so are the laughs.

For me, the production itself fell a little flat. The movement between the main action in the ‘studio’ and the delicate debriefs of each of the losing contestants was well-oiled but unmoving. Their fears/hopes/desires didn’t provoke empathy, but to be honest, the tone was so vague that I was unsure if they were intended to. The highlights were Matt Houlihan as Hugh and Emma West as Joan, by far the best sculpted of the troupe, and the only two who could really carry off the ‘on-screen’ nervous swagger and ‘in-the-limelight’ pride respectively and Houlihan’s singing jaunt into the audience to croon over ‘passing girls’ was specifically well-crafted. I can’t fault the chorus of songs the cast deliver, as they’re as homely and sweet as the period demands, but there wasn’t enough invention within the production, and I was left underwhelmed.

The set is tasty though, if not a little haphazard. There’s a glass-fronted dinner-ware cabinet next to a bar-room juke-box, and a kitchen covered skirt to surface in gingham blue check. It’s jazzy yet traditional, with a pinch of creative salt which makes the whole thing stand out. The costumes are the star of the design and come in the cut of big-print polka dot dresses charmingly donated by Vivien’s of Holloway. The lighting was apt for the TV-style the piece simulated, and the ‘50s background music was appropriate but uninteresting.

The saving grace for this show was the combination of the performance itself, the theatre, and the pub in which it lives. As the audience left the show they were cheered in abundance to stay and enjoy more ‘50s singing and smiling in the pub to which the theatre exits. This was a clever interaction between the performance per se and the entertaining environment that surrounded it. An environment that even extended into nearby Holloway in the form of the costume origins. It’s charming to see theatre companies integrate their work deeper into the sinews of their surroundings, and if I hadn’t been at the show alone, I might well have stuck around for another little ditty and cupcake of Victoria sponge.

I couldn’t say I’d recommend travelling to the capital to catch Recipe for a Perfect Wife, but if you happen to be in Islington and are in the mood to drift off to ‘Que Sera, Sera’, this little show will serve it up with sugar on top - but beware, you might just want to check that your husband approves first!



Box Office: / 0844 209 0326

King’s Head Theatre
115 Upper Street
N1 1QN


Wednesdays – Saturday; August 18th – 4th September; 9.30pm

Tickets: £10/£8







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