Theatre review - The Woman Who Cooked Her Husband, Empire Theatre, Blackburn

The woman who cooked her husband

The woman who cooked her husband - Credit: Archant

Rob Gemmell reviews the Blackburn Drama Club’s production of the Debbie Isitt dark comedy.

Debbie Isitt originally trained as an actor in the early eighties, but it was a string of award-winning black comedies that lured her to the world of writing. Possibly her most renown piece of work is "The Woman Who Cooked Her Husband" which holds the same dark themes in which she carved her career from and has been performed all over the world for many years.

It tells the story of Kenneth and Hilary who are, seemingly, happily married and have been for nearly twenty years until Laura comes into their lives. She is a young, slim, sexy woman that instantly appeals to Kenneth who is desperate to try and retain some of his youth. She can offer him more than his wife, with the exception that she cannot cook. Kenneth finds himself torn between the two women - passion on one hand and a good meal on the other.

Simplicity is the key to this story and that is exactly what director Carolanne Connelly served up. The strength of this play is in the storyline and the characters and everything was kept as minimalistic as possible allowing these elements to come to the forefront. Connelly produced a staggeringly wonderful rendition of this show with clever use of Elvis Presley songs tying in key moments of the story, but the real magic being the way the story flowed. A cacophony of a situation was played majestically, almost ballet like, on a sweeping backdrop of an emotional whirlwind. It was the movement and freedom she allowed from her actors that added something extra to this performance.

A minimalistic set came with a minimalistic cast with only three characters featuring to tell the story (not including the infamous 'Bob' who, sadly, doesn't make an appearance) With exceptional direction came an exceptional cast who all played their roles superbly and looked to enjoy themselves in the process. Steven Derbyshire was wonderful as Kenneth, the titular husband in the piece with beautiful expressions throughout and great comedy timing. The ever-impressive Neely Jillings was once again in fine form as the somewhat vindictive Laura, the object of Kenneth's desires and affections. Tying up the trio was the sublime Joanne Shepherd as Hilary, Kenneth's wife, who gave a very strong and often anarchic performance.

The show opened to a packed and ever so grateful audience who lapped up every word and were right along for the ride which really helped the flow of the story. They often became involved in the show, such was the engagement that it gave the cast the opportunity to go 'off script' which they did with great professionalism.

Isitt's play is based on the dialogue and not just how it is read, but how it is delivered. The strength in her writing comes from the intensity of the characters and it is a show that needed the energy and pace of a very able cast. No sooner had the curtain been raised for the second act and we found ourselves in top gear with feet firmly pressed down on the accelerator. With the addition of pace in the second half came a step even further upwards for the cast who grabbed the script and ran with it truly honouring a fine piece of theatrical writing with an exceptional performance from all involved.

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I urge you to go and see this.

The show continues on Thursday 21st November, Friday 22nd November and Saturday 23rd November at 7:30pm. For more information or to book tickets go to the Empire Theatre website at -