The presence onstage of an open coffin does not in itself suggest a hilarious comedy, yet there were laughs aplenty in this production of ‘Wife After Death’. The script is a little slow in places which in other hands could have dragged the pace down, but the talented cast kept us giggling and entertained throughout.
The stage was well set to suggest a wealthy, if showy, living room, which suited the deceased’s beautifully turned out widow Laura, played by Rebecca Lennon, who flawlessly managed her initial hauteur, then the gradual loss of composure as she learnt more and more about the man she thought she was married to.
For the play centred on the life of the man in the coffin, Dave Thursby, comedian and National Treasure beloved of all and known so well by those closest to him – or so they thought. Certainly Harvey, his writer, believed Dave to be his best – perhaps only – friend. Kevin Wilson was perfectly cast in the demanding role of Harvey, onstage for most of the play, confident that Dave would have appreciated the humour he finds in the situation as much as he did the writing Harvey did for him, but gradually descending into bewilderment as one revelation after another showed how little he really did know about the man who apparently kept no secrets from him – no wonder Revelations was the Bible book from which it was suggested the eulogy be taken!
The holder of the final big secret was Harvey’s own wife Vi, played by Carolyn Ferguson. Again, she was on stage for the majority of the play and portrayed Vi’s apparently devoted wifely demeanour without fault, which made her own disclosure all the more shocking – to us as well as her husband.
The other invited mourners were Kevin and his wife Jane, who also had her own secret regarding Dave. Nessa Law as Jane gave the initial impression of a ditsy, shallow woman but her genuine grief for Dave contrasted with everyone else’s preoccupation with what he represented for them. Kevin, his agent, played with energy by Martin Croutear, is keen to preserve the income generated by Dave’s career, but is totally shell-shocked when he finds out what his own wife has been up to – in a stationery cupboard. She claims it was a store – he declares it to be no bigger than a hatbox!
Then flamboyantly dressed Sarah Kellett sashayed in uninvited and unexpected, declaring herself to be Kay Thursby, Dave’s wife – ex? Or current? Either way, that information was given to Harvey, Vi – and us – before the funeral, but kept from Laura, who, thinking she was simply and old friend, invited her to speak at the ceremony….so ended Act 1.
Act 2 was set three weeks later, with no further secrets revealed – Kay had ‘behaved’ at the funeral apparently. Until the group met again to scatter the ashes – although not only were they scattered in a slightly different way from planned – several more secrets were scattered too. By the end of the play it was clear that no one actually knew much about Dave’s life at all – the characters were left to pick up the pieces of their lives, and the audience to compose themselves after all the laughter.
Director Dinah Bowman can be proud of the cast she has assembled – ‘Wife After Death’ gave us a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining evening.