The Anniversary

Previewed 20 January 2005, Opened 26 January 2005, Closed 16 April 2005 at the Garrick Theatre in London

A major revival of Bill MacIlwraith's 1966 comedy The Anniversary in London starring Sheila Hancock and directed by Denis Lawson.

In Bill MacIlwraith's The Anniversary beloved sons and bedevilled daughters-in-law gather for the annual ritual. But this year plots, schemes and secrets are lurking among the chintz. As the candles are lit and glasses raised, the party spirals into a hilarious battle of wits as Mum uses any means necessary to keep her chicks in the nest. For decades the butt of every stand-up's routine, The Anniversary is the mother-in-law's revenge: "I've always wondered why you never asked me home to meet your mum... Now I know.".

The cast for The Anniversary stars Sheila Hancock as 'Mum' along with Tony Maudsley as 'Henry', John Marquez as 'Terry', Liam Carrigan as 'Tom', Rosie Cavaliero as 'Karen' and Madeleine Worrall as 'Shirley'. The production is directed by Denis Lawson with designs by Robin Don. Interestingly, in the 1966 London West End premiere Sheila Hancock played one of the young daughters-in-law.

"The anniversary is that of Mum's wedding: she has been a widow for years, but she still celebrates it, with fulsome tributes to Dad - though it soon turns out that in reality she drove the poor man to an early grave... The humour of the piece is as broad as that of a seaside postcard, and most of the jokes hit their target, sometimes gloriously so. What raises it above the level of ordinary farce is the portrait of Mum. She is a perfect monster - brutal in her head-on assaults, fiendish in her application of emotional blackmail, staggeringly rude one moment and all saccharine sweetness the next... It's not a part that calls for half-measures, and it doesn't get any from Sheila Hancock . She's terrific. And it is says a lot for the supporting players in Denis Lawson's fine production that they aren't completely overshadowed by her - far from it. Rosie Cavaliero as the embattled daughter-in-law and Madeleine Worrall as the squeaky girl friend are particularly good." The Sunday Telegraph

"Sir David Attenborough sometimes crawls to within inches of toxic tarantulas and rib-wretching baboons. But never has TV's jungle expert encountered a beast wuite as deadly as Mum, the character played by Shelia Hancock in the West End's glorious new revival... Miss Hancock, turbo-charing back to form after her widowhood, is utterly foul as the old bag - by which, of course, one intends a huge compliment... At little over two hours, The Anniversary is a riot." The Daily Mail

"The plot, which mainly involves Henry's raid on a dress shop and Mum's blackmailing efforts to stop Terry's exit for Canada, isn't too plausible; but that hardly matters, since the play is primarily an excuse for Hancock to be unstoppably, hilariously, sublimely frightful." The Times

"Dame Edna Everage meets Cruella De Vil, with big hair, sparkly frocks and masses of malice, in Sheila Hancock's terrifying performance in Bill MacIlwraith's grotesquely funny Sixties comedy The Anniversary. She plays Mum, the manipulative matriarch who gathers her three sons together every year to celebrate the anniversary of her marriage to her long-dead husband. This year threatens to be more combustible than ever, because Tom, her youngest, is going to introduce his pregnant, blonde fiancee, Shirley, to Mum, and Terry, the cowed, middle one, is set to announce that he and his wife Karen are escaping to Canada. True to form, Mum explodes with her full armoury of withering words, lies, threats, bribes and brutal humiliation, in her tireless effort to keep her 'chicks' where she wants them... While the play is no more than an overextended mother-in-law joke, Denis Lawson's hideously authentic Sixties production is, nevertheless, performed with comic brio - and Hancock is hilarious. I'm not certain whether she's more frightening when clucking in crazed ecstasy as she listens to her little Terry's fumblings on the piano, or when she suffocates Tom with an incestuous snog." The Mail on Sunday

The Anniversary in London at the Garrick Theatre previewed from 20 January 2005, opened on 26 January 2005 and closed on 16 April 2005.