April 2007 performance at the Young Vic, The Cut, London
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge
This farcical comedy is charming in every respect. Beautifully cast and finely observed, it shows how tense these family occasions can be and how very funny when we can watch them from a safe distance, rather than being part of them. Originally Brecht would have written it as a satire on the bourgeoisie but brought up to date, it doesn't use class as the main pivot of the comedy, but the ridiculous nature of weddings and all the comic confetti this event can throw at its unsuspecting participants.
We are assembled in a tiny flat for the home based reception after the wedding of Russell Tovey's Groom and his very pregnant bride (Jemina Rooper), with all the embarrassment of a maladroit best friend (James Corden), who puts his foot in it on every occasion while trying to be nice. A father (Lloyd Hutchinson) whose longwinded and gruesome stories about vomiting or disease puts everyone off their wedding breakfast and has the whole cast facing front and glazing over with polite boredom as we wait for him to get to the punchline. When the joke arrives it seems sadly lacking and certainly not worth the rigmarole. Then there is the ultra thin Wife (Doon MacKichan), fresh from a spray on tan at the salon, rivalling the bride in her stiff white minidress with a silly two feather hat, who is bickering with her morose husband (Martin Savage). Together they give you every reason never to get married.
We are told that the Groom (Tovey) has built the furniture himself and in the course of the hour it hilariously starts to fall apart. The backs come off chairs, legs off tables, doors off cupboards, seats fall through and people get stuck in the chair frames. The neighbour from downstairs (Kobna Holbrook-Smith) makes a speech thanking the man who made it all possible, Jesus Christ, and leads everyone in a hymn which they gamely try to join in with, although they obviously know neither the words nor the tune. The sister (Hayley Bishop) has a quick shag in the kitchen with the Young Man behind the partition. There is trashy music and wonderfully choreographed dances as the Groom (Tovey) tangos with the Wife, much to the chagrin of his new wife, the Bride. The mother keeps wheeling in the food, crème brulees on top of chocolate mousse and cod mornay! When they troop off to view the home made bed, a flash and loud bang indicates that the Groom's (Tovey’s) ability as an electrician is as abysmal as his carpentry talent and the flat is plunged into darkness. Russell Tovey is of course delightful as the hapless groom with his Tintin quiff and cute expression.
All this takes place in a cramped suspended box set maybe ten feet by eight. A Respectable Wedding is a gem, a witty farce, fresh as a daisy, brilliantly directed and deserves a much longer run so that many more people can go out into the night laughing.
A RESPECTABLE WEDDING
Written by Bertolt Brecht
Translated by Rory Bremner
With: James Corden, Flaminia Cinque, Russell Tovey, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Jemima Rooper, Lloyd Hutchinson, Doon Mackichan, Hayley Bishop, Martin Savage