A review by Aleksandra Sakowska w for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

 

Recipe for a Perfect Wife

 

 

Written by Christina McCulloch and Nadia Papachronopoulou

 
Directed by Nadia Papachronopoulou
 
Produced by Christina McCulloch

 

Charing Cross Theatre
(formerly New Players Theatre)

 

2 - 26 June 2011
Wed and Thurs only
 

Those who savour a good nostalgia trip with vintage songs and a glimpse of the life of a 1950’s housewife will not be disappointed. The short comedy, Recipe for a Perfect Wife, lasting a fleeting 70 minutes, is warm, charming, light-hearted and capable of raising a few chuckles. Christina McCulloch and Nadia Papachronopoulou, co-authors and respectively, producer and director, transport us effortlessly to a bygone era. It's a world of naive advertising, loaded with anachronism, vacuous men and 'perfect' wives who can whip up a dinner party at a minute's notice, and obediently take their sleeping pills.

The idea of setting the comedy on the set of a TV talent show, 'Britain's Best Housewife' and introducing the characters as they prance, pose, sing and compete to become the winner of the show is simple but effective. The contestants try hard to prove they are perfect wives, but behind their unnervingly smiley faces, seamless make up and tight fitting dresses we soon discover sadness, disappointment and lies. This really makes Recipe for a Perfect Wife a bit more than just a silly romp.

Still the play provides little content. A shortage of plot, character development and more profound insight into its characters’ lives may fail to impress. But there are things to enjoy, among these are the skilful recreation of ‘50’s humour, comportment, accents and attitudes.  While maybe lacking edge, dark humour or a witty plot, this cocktail of mad-men, and Stepford Wives with a pinch of Alan Ayckbourn is served by a charming female ensemble. Kate Sandison as Bunty, and Leah Grayson as Daisy especially shine on the small stage of the Charing Cross Theatre (formerly New Players Theatre). And it is in fact the sheer charm of all the actresses for which the show deserves praise. The only male character, Matt Houlihan's Berty Baxter, the oily womanizing sleazebag who hosts the show, manages to make his mark despite the overwhelming female presence onstage, and creates, together with Antonia Bird as his wife and a celebrity housewife, a memorable TV couple.

Nevertheless, the low production values of the show may require a healthy dose of imagination, manifested in the poor stage design which, sadly makes the performance look a bit like a student production. But famous 1950’s songs including ‘Diamonds are Girl’s Best Friend’, and ‘Keep Young and Beautiful’, sung by the show's 'choir girls' are sufficiently diverting to gloss over any visual shortcomings. Since audience participation was welcomed I found myself humming along with the cast and clapping and booing as the 'Britain's Best Housewife' contest went on the stage. The pantomimic aspect of the performance suits it well, although it may not be to everyone’s taste.

Indeed Recipe for a Perfect Wife may seem anachronistic, as the authors chose only to gently poke fun rather than focus more on the darker side of women's role in society in the 1950’s.  But if you are looking for light entertainment and a trip down a memory lane with a charming female cast, go see it.

 

Box office: 020 7478 0170
http://charingcrosstheatre.ticketsolve.com
Charing Cross Theatre
The Arches, Villiers St
WC2N 6NL London
£15

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