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When We Are Married

The Helliwells, the Parkers and the Soppitts were married on the same day by the same parson. They gather at the Helliwell home to celebrate their silver wedding. The new chapel organist tells them that he recently met the parson who conducted the triple wedding ceremony – he was not authorised to do so. Pandemonium breaks out when these pillars of society believe they have been living in sin for twenty-five years.


16 - 18th May 2024


J B Priestley


Chris Abbott



This was my first visit with Parish Players, albeit it on an emergency basis, and it was pleasing to see tonight’s performance so well attended. I shall officially take over full-time responsibility for Noda’s District 5, from Phil Wilcox, at our Celebration Day on June 16th.

Written by J.B. Priestley, who was a keen observer of life and an avid people watcher, ‘When We Are Married’ was first performed in London in 1938 and remains popular with audiences today. Married on the same day, in the same chapel, and by the same young priest, three couples meet to celebrate their silver wedding anniversaries. The festivities are brought to a shuddering halt when they discover that the priest who conducted their ceremonies had not completed the necessary paperwork in time and was not actually licensed to conduct weddings. Had these three couples, ‘pillars of the community’ been living in sin for the past 25 years?

The play began with a brief slide show of various scenes from the Edwardian era. As the stage lights were raised it then became apparent that the projection screen was indeed a gauze curtain which, when opened, revealed the sumptuous sitting room in Alderman Helliwell’s house. An excellent and well thought out opening to the play.

Chris Abbott (Director), Sebastian Roberts (Assistant Director) and Roger Birtles (Producer) are to be congratulated for delivering an excellent production. It was clear that the cast had been carefully selected and well-rehearsed. The dialogue was realistic and the characters believable. From start to finish the amount of time, effort and attention to detail were obvious to see. I found the whole production to be polished and very entertaining.

Paul Mannix brought an air of pomp and authority to the role of Alderman Joseph Helliwell. It was most amusing to see him slowly deflate as the sorry situation dawned on him! Toni Conyers played Maria Helliwell, his somewhat long-suffering wife, well indeed and I enjoyed the twist when she announced she was leaving Joseph.

Mike Norman-Smith played browbeaten Herbert Soppitt well indeed and transformed from a reserved man to one quietly surprised by his own audacity. Caroline Dempsey played the pompous and bossy Clara Soppitt. The audience certainly felt that Clara wore the trousers in their relationship until Herbert finally stood up for himself.

Richard Warner was most amusing as the insufferable Councillor Albert Parker – a man who always paid more attention to his councillor's duties than to his quietly spoken wife.  Maggie Chick gave a delightful interpretation in her role as Annie Parker, the docile and obedient ‘wife’ who gained stature and confidence as the plot unwound making the most of her brief moment of rebellion against her insufferable husband.

These six characters were all very strong, with excellent accents, and diction, the relationships were clear and the various pecking order amongst both the woman and men was also evident. The stage was used well and there was no significant drop in pace with various pauses and looks forming an integral part to the success.

The smaller roles added both comedy and variety, keeping the plot moving whilst allowing those of the three central couples to further develop.

Heloise Roberts did very well playing the likeable maid Ruby Birtle with a bouncy naivety. This was certainly a fun and energetic role to enjoy. Anne Carroll was splendidly raucous as Mrs Northrop, the indiscreet and feisty housekeeper never afraid to ‘stand up for herself’.

Nick Carroll played ‘southerner’ Gerald Forbes, the new young organist at the chapel the three couples were supposed to have married. Sally Hopkins played Nancy Holmes, Helliwell’s niece, who was secretly having an affair with Gerald Forbes.

Sebastian Roberts played Fred Dyson (newspaper reporter) with confidence and a degree of cheek and Nick Roberts gave a convincing performance in the role of alcohol-soaked Henry Ormonroyd (newspaper photographer). Both arrive from the Yorkshire Argus at an inappropriate time to do an article about the couples’ celebrations.

Caryl Court made a dramatic appearance in the role of Lottie Grady ensuring further embarrassment to those gathered. Pete Ranford played The Rev. Clement Mercer, the chapel’s current vicar offered kindly assistance to the stricken couples in this cameo role.

A sudden revelation that a properly licenced registrar was actually present, and that they were indeed legal weddings, resulted in everything being fine in the end – even though much had been said and thought by the three couples who had come to accept their not being married...

Ingrid Holtz (Stage Manager) together with John Wood (ASM) combined to ensure everybody, and everything was in the right place at the right time.

Members of Parish Players were responsible for Set Design and Construction. The single set of Alderman Helliwell’s living room was of the highest standard, elegantly furnished and provided an indication as to the social status.

Peri Kennedy, Ingrid Holtz and Chloe Hopkins gathered together an impressive array of period looking props which certainly added to the visual impression onstage and to the overall production.

Clare Quinn, Clare Gray and Sally Hopkins combined to gather a wonderful selection of outfits. I’m certain they’d spent much time, and effort, ensuring the cast was appropriately dressed for the time period and respective social standing.

Congratulations to everyone at Parish Players and thank you for a lovely evening’s entertainment. I look forward to my next visit in January for your annual pantomime.

Des Wilby

Regional Representative Designate

Noda London District 5

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