The Fairmer Wants A Wife

Aug 15 2015 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩     Warm and funny

Mayfield Salisbury Church (Venue 11): Fri 7 – Sat 22 August 2015

There is nothing remotely groundbreaking about EPT’s The Fairmer Wants A Wife at Mayfield Church. What is provided is a thoroughly enjoyable, very well presented piece of Scottish comedy.

In 1822, the widowed Sir Robert Drummond of Hawthornden near Roslin is on the lookout for a new wife – more to give him a partner for the upcoming state visit of George IV than for any romantic reasons. His choice may not be the wisest and her brother has his own romantic designs. Drummond also has plans for a dynastic marriage for his daughter Kate – who has other ideas.

Kathryn Clark, Lynn Cameron and Mike Brownsell Photo EPT

Kathryn Clark, Lynn Cameron and Mike Brownsell Photo EPT

Add to this a parade of other characters and you have the ingredients for Alan Cochrane’s comedy, originally presented by EPT in 2000. It has something of an Auld Alliance feel to it, with the themes and construction – not to mention the use of stock characters such as cheeky servants – being more reminiscent of Molière than an English country-house comedy or farce.

It is all recognisably Scottish, however, not least in the breadth of some of the variety-style performances. Sir Robert is a conniving bully who is nevertheless given real warmth by Iain Fraser’s blustering, goggle-eyed performance. The moment where, supposedly laid up by a bad leg, he sees he has company and remembers to limp is just one of the pieces of comedy that are timed to perfection in the production.

Many of these are provided by the deadpan punchlines of John Lyon’s oblivious, self-obsessed Sir Henry, Sir Robert’s loose-tongued confidant and brother-in-law. Similarly impressive is the scatty maid Ailie, played with excellent timing by Emma Archibald, who understands the value of the smallest gesture.

brazen comic impact

Lady Mirren, Sir Robert’s sister, is a suitably imposing figure who tends to dominate proceedings. In this regard the character is well served by Lyzzie Dell, whose presence makes her entirely self-confident without ever really disguising the fact she has no more idea what is really going on that anyone else does.

A similarly large impact is made by Mandy Black as housekeeper Effie, with every opportunity for brazen comic impact seized. She has a particularly pantomimish turn in donning a disguise that serves no real purpose other than to generate some of the evening’s biggest laughs.

Lynn Cameron, as Sir Robert’s intended Arabella, and Mike Brownsell (her brother Rupert) are suitably slimy, with Brownsell’s plausibly caddish sleaziness particularly pleasing.

Kathryn Clark takes some time to warm up as Sir Robert’s daughter Kate, but turns in a likeable comic performance. Matthew Dunn, as her would-be suitor, cuts a suitably romantic figure, somewhat on the glaikit side of dashing but with a heart of gold nevertheless.

Maureen Cochrane directs with care and delicacy. This is carried a degree too far in the long first-half set-up, which could do with a shade more pace. The second half, however, is spot on, with some tremendous ensemble playing that gives the humour a real rhythm and verve.

The affection felt by all for the play is obvious, and leads to a production that is suffused with warmth and an infectious degree of fun.

Running time 2 hours 30 minutes including interval
Mayfield Salisbury Church (Venue 11) 18 West Mayfield, EH9 1TQ
Friday 7 – Saturday 22 August 2015
Daily (not Sat or Sun) at 7.45 pm; Matinees Saturday at 2.30 pm
Book tickets on the EdFringe website:
Company website:

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