BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
A CurtainUp London Review
The Woman Who Cooked Her Husband
by Brian Clover
Wronged woman Hilary (Alison Steadman) takes revenge on the husband who has left her for a younger woman, Laura (Daisy Donovan), by cooking and eating him. This essentially dark material, worthy of Greek tragedy treatment, is played for laughs and presented as a frothy farce. Sadly this is not plot enough to sustain its running time.
That the piece lacks bite is the fault of the writing which just doesn't have the comic firepower required and although the actors make a good stab at it, I felt they deserved better material. If there had been more laughs, the script's inconsistencies in tone and characterisation would be more easily forgiven. Why does the boorish and otherwise unsympathetic husband, Kenneth, get a persuasive soliloquy on why he has been such a cad, when the rest of the time his role is as a pantomime villain, whose death we are supposed to applaud?
This feels like the work of a young author and glancing at the notes we realise that writer/director Debbie Isitt produced it for the Edinburgh festival at the age of twenty six, eleven years ago. This explains why the play feels distended rather than trimmed, why some of the scenes are extraneous and why there is not enough to ground the characters in a reality that is consistent or recognisable.
The production is very slick. Designer Robert Jones deserves a lot of credit for his ingenious and effective set which reminded me of the green palace in The Wizard of Oz. All the actors acquit themselves admirably, particularly Alison Steadman whose timing and power make the script seem much better than it actually is.
Married couples in the audience seemed to greatly enjoy its simple gender battling and there was plenty of hissing at the brutish husband. At one point a woman in the audience was moved to shout, "Kill him!" at the odious Kenneth (Michael Attwell). Moments like these were the high points and I was reminded of the good-natured domestic violence of a Punch and Judy show or a particularly good episode of Jerry Springer. We would have had a much more entertaining night of theatre if this pantomimic element had been embraced more boldly. The chance was missed and we were left instead with a uncertain tone, Petit Guignol when it could have been Grand.
To abuse the play's central metaphor, The Woman Who Cooked Her Husband has all the depth of a thin and crispy pizza. Cheerful, simple and with some excellent ingredients but you are always aware that for a little more effort you could have had something with much more class.
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
Click image to buy.
Go here for details and larger image.