The Waterloo East Theatre has a simple rule regarding mobile phones. You cannot use them in the auditorium. You can use them in the bar and in the foyer but not in the auditorium. It doesn’t matter if the show hasn’t started yet, or if it’s the interval. You cannot use your mobile in the auditorium. It’s straightforward, with no room for misinterpretation or feigning ignorance of ‘theatre etiquette’ (whatever that is!), and it works: I had the rare opportunity to experience a play without a single ringing interference.
There are plays that progress at a steady pace until most of the audience has realised that some critical incident or other will happen at some stage. This incident will then substantially alter the course of the characters in the play, and will also change the mood and direction of the play. Taken in Marriage falls under this category of show.
With an all-female cast, it can’t help having at least one dig at the gents: “It’s too hard to be a man,” concludes Andy (Liane Grant), “and very few of them do it well, when they do it at all.” Andy (short for Andrea) should know, having been married five times. Her younger sister Annie (Alex Critoph) is to marry the following day; she is the stereotypical fair and pleasant sibling to the equally stereotypical bolshy and uncompromising Andy.
Indeed, there are too many stereotypes in the play, which suffers as a result. The mother of the two sisters, Ruth Chandler (Jeryl Burgess) is well off and more than a little snobbish, while Ruth’s sister Helen (Joan Plunkett) is a pensioner going on 40, at least partly because she never had any children of her own. Finally, Dixie Avalon (Roxanne Lamendola), a wedding singer and entertainer, is allowed to stay until the very end of proceedings despite being told “there is no entertainment” – the reception presumably comprising merely food and drink, background (and therefore recorded) music, plus the speeches. The play has got to have somebody who keeps the conversation flowing when the family members are wanting to tear each other apart, and see to it that each side gets to have their say, so then the audience hears evidence from both defence and prosecution.
I was particularly taken (so to speak) by Critoph’s portrayal of Annie, at times joyous, other times fearful having gotten the wedding jitters, and then almost totally vulnerable and helpless when the news filters through that her husband to be has been sleeping with another woman. By the end of the first act, I felt as though nothing had really happened. By the end of the second act, I felt no compelling need to revise that viewpoint. Because of the infidelity, the wedding is off, so young Annie’s position, at least in terms of marital status, is exactly as it was at the beginning of the play.
So with nothing actually happening, the play relies on the dialogue to carry it through. There are some moments of humour, and a lot of secrets from the past, sometimes from decades ago, are brought out into the open as the delayed wedding rehearsal (they are waiting for the groom and the groomsmen, who are probably in the pub) forces the characters to share a confined space together for an extended period. And yet, I still came out thinking, “So what?” The play is only partly coherent, and not altogether believable. At least the characters, particularly the two sisters, resolved their differences in the end.
We see demonstrated that even the greatest of frustrations can be resolved through mediation and dialogue. And we can never be reminded enough times to look before we leap, and not rush into marriage or anything substantial in life.
Review by Chris Omaweng
RoL’n Productions present: Taken in Marriage
By Thomas Babe
When the young and beautiful Annie becomes trapped in a basement with her dysfunctional family on the eve of her wedding, what ends up escaping are the feelings, frustrations, and secrets that lay hidden within. A feisty, down-on-her-luck wedding singer pokes at this buzzing beehive of dysfunction and Annie is forced to question her impending nuptials. Meanwhile, her sister, Andy, is forced to question all of their relationships on every level, while their mother and aunt attempt to provide pearls of wisdom that turn into surprising revelations.
RoL’n Productions invite you to sit tight for a ride filled with tension, laughter, surprise, and most importantly, truth, as a lost family begins the journey of finding itself.
By arrangement with Josef Weinberger Ltd
14th to 18th July
Show Times: Tuesday to Saturday 7.30pm
Running time approx.120 mins with an interval
Strictly No Latecomers Admitted.
Thursday 16th July 2015