When We Are Married

Play by J B Priestley. Set in 1908 in Clecklewyke in the heart of Northern England where three well-to-do West Yorkshire couples - the Parkers, Soppitts and Helliwells - who where all married on the same day, at the same church, and by the same vicar, join together to celebrate 25 years of blissful matrimony. But disaster strikes with the shocking revelation that the vicar who married them wasn't actually licensed - these pillars of the church and the community, aren't as respectably married as they thought they were! Home truths fly like confetti, an old flame returns and other uninvited guests start to call. With a photographer from the local paper due to arrive, a missing housekeeper and a doorbell that wont stop ringing, can the three couples keep a lid on their embarrassing secret or will the neighbours find out, destroying their standing in the community.

1938: Original West End London Production at the St Martin's and Prince's Theatre

1941: 1st West End London Revival at the Vaudeville Theatre

1970: 2nd West End London Revival at the Strand Theatre

1979: London Revival at the National Theatre's Lyttelton Theatre

1986: 3rd West End London Revival at the Whitehall Theatre

1996: 4th West End London Revival at the Savoy Theatre

2010: 5th West End London Revival at the Garrick Theatre

J B Priestley's London theatre plays include An Inspector Calls and Dangerous Corner.


Original West End London Production 1938

Opened 11 October 1938, Closed 11 March 1938 at the St Martin's Theatre
Transferred 27 March 1939, Closed 24 June 1939 at the Prince's Theatre (now Shaftesbury Theatre)

The cast featured Lloyd Pearson as 'Alderman Joseph Helliwell', Muriel George as 'Maria Helliwell', Raymond Huntley as 'Counsellor Albert Parker', Helena Pickard as 'Annie Parker' (St Martin's Theatre), Helen Lacy as 'Annie Parker' (Prince's Theatre), Ernest Butcher as 'Herbert Soppitt', Ethel Coleridge as 'Clara Soppitt', Mai Bacon as 'Lottie Grady', Beatrice Varley as 'Mrs Northrop', Frank Pettingell as 'Henry Ormonroyd' (up to 29 October 1938, and from 8 December 1938), J B Priestley as 'Henry Ormonroyd' (from 31 October to 9 November 1938), George Carney as 'Henry Ormonroyd' (from 10 November to 7 December 1938), Patricia Hayes as 'Ruby Birtle', Alexander Grandison as 'Fred Dyson', Richard Warner as 'Gerald Forbes', Betty Fleetwood as 'Nancy Holmes', and Norman Wooland as 'Rev. Clement Mercer'.

Directed by Basil Dean, with sets by Gower Parks, and costumes by Gladys Cobb.

After a five-month run at the compact 600-seater St Martin's Theatre, the production transferred to the larger 1,850-seater Prince's Theatre (now named Shaftesbury Theatre) for a further three-months.

On the afternoon of Sunday 30 October 1938, Frank Pettingell was driving his car in Kent with his wife when they where involved in an accident that overturned their car. Although Mrs Pettingell and the driver of the other car where able to leave hospital later that same day, Frank Pettingell injuries required longer treatment and he was therefore unable to perform the role of 'Henry Ormonroyd'. At very short notice the playwright J B Priestley stepped in to cover the role for 12 performances from Monday 31 October through to Wednesday 9 November 1938, after which the role was taken by George Carney, before Frank Pettingell returned to play the part from Thursday 8 December 1938.

On Wednesday 16 November 1938 the entire play was broadcast live direct from the St Martin's Theatre on the BBC Television Service, which was still very much in it's infancy. It was estimated that around 25,000 people watched the black-and-white broadcast, often on very basic screens, some measuring only one inch square.


1st West End London Revival 1941

Opened 6 March 1941, Closed 15 March 1941 at the Vaudeville Theatre

The cast featured George Larchet as 'Alderman Joseph Helliwell', Kitty de Legh as 'Maria Helliwell', Herbert Lomas as 'Counsellor Albert Parker', Ellen Compton as 'Annie Parker', Neil Crawford as 'Herbert Soppitt', Sybil Wise as 'Clara Soppitt', Enid Sass as 'Lottie Grady', Phyllis Barker as 'Mrs Northrop', Owen Reynolds as 'Henry Ormonroyd', Joan Benham as 'Ruby Birtle', Charles Hickman as 'Fred Dyson', John Marquand as 'Gerald Forbes', Elizabeth Sellars as 'Nancy Holmes', and Caswell Garth as 'Rev. Clement Mercer'.

Directed by Charles Hickman, with designs by William Blakeley.

Presented for a two-week run as part of a Wilson Barrett Theatre Company Season.


2nd West End London Revival 1970

Previewed 11 November 1970, Opened 17 November 1970, Closed 29 May 1971 at the Strand Theatre

The original cast featured William Moore as 'Alderman Joseph Helliwell', Freda Jackson as 'Maria Helliwell', Frank Thornton as 'Counsellor Albert Parker', Gwen Cherrell as 'Annie Parker', Hugh Lloyd as 'Herbert Soppitt', Peggy Mount as 'Clara Soppitt', Daphne Anderson as 'Lottie Grady', Gretchen Franklin as 'Mrs Northrop', Fred Emney as 'Henry Ormonroyd', Shirley Steedman as 'Ruby Birtle', James Rowe as 'Fred Dyson', Jonathan Lynn as 'Gerald Forbes', Jennifer Agner as 'Nancy Holmes', and Brian Hewlett Jones as 'Rev. Clement Mercer'.

Directed by Robert Chetwyn, with sets by Gerald Kitching, costumes by Margaret Graham, and lighting by Michael Saddington.


London Revival 1979

Previewed 21 November 1979, Opened 12 December 1979, Closed 12 June 1980 (in repertory) at the National Theatre's Lyttelton Theatre

The cast featured Leslie Sands as 'Alderman Joseph Helliwell', Pat Heywood as 'Maria Helliwell', Robin Bailey as 'Councillor Albert Parker', Barbara Ferris as 'Annie Parker', Harold Innocent as 'Herbert Soppitt', Joan Sanderson as 'Clara Soppitt', Phyllida Law as 'Lottie Grady', Liz Smith as 'Mrs Northrop', Peter Jeffrey as 'Henry Ormonroyd', Mary Maddox as 'Ruby Birtle', Robert Ralph as 'Fred Dyson', John Quayle as 'Gerald Forbes', Gil Brailey as 'Nancy Holmes', and John Atkinson as 'Rev Clement Mercer'.

Directed by Robin Lefevre, with sets by Eileen Diss, costumes by Jessica Gwynne, lighting by Leonard Tucker, and sound by Chris Montgomery.


3rd West End London Revival 1986

Previewed 26 February 1986, Opened 5 March 1986, Closed 22 November 1986 at the Whitehall Theatre (now Trafalgar Theatre)

The original cast featured James Grout as 'Alderman Joseph Helliwell', Patricia Routledge as 'Maria Helliwell', Timothy West as 'Counsellor Albert Parker', Prunella Scales as 'Annie Parker', Brian Murphy as 'Herbert Soppitt', Elizabeth Spriggs as 'Clara Soppitt', Patsy Rowlands as 'Lottie Grady', Patricia Hayes as 'Mrs Northrop', Bill Fraser as 'Henry Ormonroyd', Sue Devaney as 'Ruby Birtle', Peter Bourke as 'Fred Dyson', Julian Wadham as 'Gerald Forbes', Matilda Thorpe as 'Nancy Holmes', and Alan Bennion as 'Rev. Clement Mercer'.

Directed by Ronald Eyre, with sets by Terry Parsons, costumes by Michael Stennett, and lighting by Mick Hughes.


4th West End London Revival 1996

Opened 2 October 1996, Closed 23 November 1996 at the Savoy Theatre

The cast featured Denis Lill as 'Alderman Joseph Helliwell', Alison Steadman as 'Maria Helliwell', Roger Lloyd Pack as 'Counsellor Albert Parker', Annette Badland as 'Annie Parker', Paul Copley as 'Herbert Soppitt', Dawn French as 'Clara Soppitt', Shirley Anne Field as 'Lottie Grady', Judith Barker as 'Mrs Northrop', Leo McKern as 'Henry Ormonroyd', Elizabeth Chadwick as 'Ruby Birtle', Colin R Campbell as 'Fred Dyson', Chris Larkin as 'Gerald Forbes', Jackie Morrison as 'Nancy Holmes', and Jeremy Pearce as 'Rev. Clement Mercer'.

Directed by Jude Kelly, with designs by Robert Jones, lighting by Hugh Vanstone, music by Ewan Anderson, and sound by Mic Pool.

A 'limited-season' transfer from the Chichester Festival Theatre, West Sussex (previewed from 24 July 1996, opened on 26 July 1996, and closed on 17 August 1996) with the same cast apart from four exceptions: Gary Waldhorn as 'Alderman Joseph Helliwell', Dora Byran as 'Mrs Northrop', Paul Rider as 'Fred Dyson', and Gillian Kearney as 'Nancy Holmes'.


5th West End London Revival 2010

Previewed 19 October 2010, Opened 27 October 2010, Closed 26 February 2011 at the Garrick Theatre

A major revival of JB Priestley's comedy When We Are Married in London featuring an 'all star' West End cast

The cast featured David Horovitch and Susie Blake as 'Joseph and Maria Helliwell', Simon Rouse and Michele Dotrice as 'Albert and Annie Parker', Sam Kelly and Maureen Lipman as 'Herbert and Clara Soppitt', Rosemary Ashe as 'Lottie Grady', Lynda Baron as 'Mrs Northrop', Roy Hudd as 'Henry Ormonroyd', Jodie McNee as 'Ruby Birtle', Tom Shaw as 'Fred Dyson', Peter Sandys-Clarke as 'Gerald Forbes', Laura Haddock as 'Nancy Holmes', and Vincent Brimble as 'Rev Clement Mercer'.

Directed by Christopher Luscombe, with designs by Simon Higlett, lighting by Mark Henderson, and sound by Jason Barnes.

David Horovitch's London theatre credits include the roles of 'Ernest' in Peter Hall's revival of Alan Ayckborn's Bedroom Farce at the Duke of York's Theatre in 2010; 'Stefan Zweig' in Philip Franks' production of Ronald Harwood's Collaboration at the Duchess Theatre in 2009; 'Major Steve Arnold' in Philip Franks' production of Ronald Harwood's Taking Sides at the Duchess Theatre in 2009; 'Ronald' in Alan Strachan's revival of Alan Ayckbourn's Absurd Person Singular at the Garrick Theatre in 2007; 'Tony' in Robin Lefevre production of Simon Mendes da Costa's Losing Louis at the Hampstead Theatre, and transfer to the Trafalgar Studios in 2005; 'William Cecil, Lord Burleigh' in Phyllida Lloyd's revival of Friedrich Schiller's Mary Stuart at the Donmar Warehouse, and transfer to the Apollo Theatre in 2005; and 'Prince Philip' in Max Stafford-Clark's production of Sue Townsend's The Queen and I at the Vaudeville Theatre in 1994.

Sam Kelly's London theatre credits include the roles of 'Theo' in Roger Michell's production of Joanna Murray-Smith's The Female of the Species at the Vaudeville Theatre in 2008; 'Solomon' in Adrian Noble's revival of Jean Paul Sartre's Kean at the Pollo Theatre in 2007; 'Senex' in Edward Hall's revival of Stephen Sondheim's A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum at the National Theatre in 2004; 'Brian' in Terry Johnson's production of Terry Johnson's Dead Funny at the Savoy Theatre in 1995; and 'Cleon' in Phyllida Lloyd's revival of William Shakespeare's Pericles at the National Theatre's Olivier Theatre in 1994.

Maureen Lipman's London stage credits include the roles of 'Madame Armfeldt' in Trevor Nunn's revival Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music at the Menier Chocolate Factory in 2008, and transfer to the West End's Garrick Theatre in 2009; 'Florence Foster Jenkins' in Alan Strachan's production of Peter Quilter's Glorious! at the Duchess Theatre in 2006; 'Mrs Meers' in Michael Mayer's production of the Jeanine Tesori and Dick Scanlan musical Thoroughly Modern Millie at the Shaftesbury Theatre in 2003; 'Peggy Ramsay' in Robin Lefevre's production of Alan Plater's Peggy For You at the Comedy Theatre in 2000; 'Aunt Eller' in Trevor Nunn's revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! at the National Theatre's Olivier Theatre in 1998, and transfer to the West End's Lyceum Theatre in 1999; and the title role of 'Joyce Grenfell' in Alan Strachan's production of the Joyce Grenfell play Re:Joyce at the Fortune Theatre in 1988, and at the Vaudeville Theatre in 1989 and 1991.

"At first, the play seems to be concerned merely with the farcical business of how the shameful truth should be kept from the neighbours. Then, as the characters realise the possibilities posed by not being coupled, it gets a bit more searching... The high point comes when hen-pecked Herbert Soppitt dares to defy Clara, because she isn't his wife. Herbert seems to find his backbone and grow 6ft, and Clara, who has spent most of the past 25 years carping and sniping collapses like a souffle. Christopher Luscombe's loving revival - the Edwardian parlour, all frills and flourishes gets a round of applause - is similarly stuffed with delightful performances, from a line-up of vintage vaudevillians. Old-fashioned fun." The Mail on Sunday

"In 1908, in Cleckleywyke, Yorkshire, Alderman Joseph Helliwell and his wife and two more joyless couples are celebrating their joint 25th wedding anniversary the only way they know how: by eating too much. The shocking news that they were not legally wed and so are unmarried provokes the arrival of a succession of disreputable characters to undermine the strait-laced household... As the couples struggle to cope with being single again, it's the turning worms that fare best in Christopher Luscombe's sturdy production... Simon Higlett's parlour set is a marvellous example of Edwardian clutter, making the perfect background for this very cosy comedy." The Sunday Times

"We clearly want nostalgia. We see it with the success of Downton Abbey on television, and here it is on stage in a production of When We Are Married, which boasts stalwarts such as Maureen Lipman, Roy Hudd and Lynda Baron. It's a farce, so the story is simple enough. Three Yorkshire industrialists are celebrating their silver wedding anniversaries; then something goes wrong, but not too wrong... Christopher Luscombe, keeps it trivial, makes the most of the bigname character actors (yes, Hudd and Lipman are good), and enraptures his audience." The Sunday Telegraph

When We Are Married in London at the Garrick Theatre previewed from 19 October 2010, opened on 27 October 2010 and closed on 26 February 2011.