Skip to content


The Rotten Wedding
Published on Monday, 09 May 2011

3.5 stars

Marlborough Theatre (venue website)
7 May, 5:30pm-6:30pm, 7:15pm-8:15pm; 6, 8-9 May, 7:15pm-8:15pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

 Suitable for age 15+ only.
 Warning: Contains strong language and nudity.

Many plays promise to help you discover things about yourself; few take that concept as literally as The Rotten Wedding.  As we mingle, pre-show, in the bar of the Marlborough, we're dropped without warning into the role of guests at a mutual friend's marriage.  A bridesmaid hands out name tags, each carrying with it a secret back-story; and as we chat to the cast and our fellow audience, it's up to us to find out who we actually are.

It's a very clever warm-up for a hugely experimental show, and even the discovery that they'd cast me as an ageing bore couldn't take the edge off my delight.  The meat of the play, though, lies in vignettes from the bride and groom's courtship, played out throughout the rooms of the Marlborough pub.  Proving that the simplest ideas can be the best ones, we learn this the place where our happy couple met - and now return for their reception, hosted in the function room upstairs.

The story's a familiar one, yet the telling is constantly surprising, a real wedding buffet of different moods and styles.  The high-energy performance gets a little shouty sometimes, but the characters are easy to root for and the intimate performance space is used well.  What I liked most, though, were the snatches of overheard conversation so cleverly worked into the fabric of the Marlborough; the sobbing we heard as we walked past the ladies', or the whispered conference outside the fire escape door.

In a neat twist, we're each in possession of an individual secret, which (at least for me and my neighbours) turned out to form part of the plot later in the play.  It's another clever idea, but this time the interactivity's a veneer; keep your secret or blurt it out, they'll carry on just the same.  The whole second half, in fact, suffers from stuffing the genie back into its lamp - having tasted such freedom at the drinkies downstairs, it was a touch disappointing to find myself an onlooker again.

So there's a lot of raw creativity to enjoy here but, as with all exciting companies in their early days, they lack a balancing hand.  Never mind; it's all saved by a gratifying and emotional conclusion, with the bride (and lovably big-hearted best man) quitting the stage in floods of tears.  Are they overcome by joy or sorrow?  Unusually for a romantic comedy, it's not at all obvious how it's going to end - and it's well worth watching to find out.

<< Photographic Memory   The Big Smoke >>