Worst Wedding Ever review at Salisbury Playhouse – ‘raucous and appealing’

Elizabeth Cadwallader in Worst Wedding Ever at Salisbury Playhouse. Photo: The Other Richard
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A raucous comedy about a disastrous family wedding in a Dorset back garden was an unexpected choice for Broadchurch writer Chris Chibnall’s first stage play in 10 years.

Premiering at Salisbury Playhouse in 2014, it let Chibnall flex his comedy muscles, proved a huge success with cross-generational appeal, and provided a flagship production for Playhouse artistic director Gareth Machin’s Original Writing programme, which has gone on to flourish with new writing from the south west.

With the third series of Broadchurch about to air and the recent announcement that he would be show-runner for Doctor Who, Chibnall has revisited the play prior to a short tour.

Liz is the mother on a mission to stage the austerity wedding of the year for daughter Rachel (a sparky Elisabeth Hopper) and fiance Scott (Nav Sidhu). Originally (and magnificently) played by Carolyn Pickles, sweeping all before her, Julia Hills’ Liz is a pint-sized, high-heeled steamroller with a vulnerable edge.

There’s strong support from an ebullient Derek Frood as the husband with more to hide than just the pair of drugged dogs in his shed. Elizabeth Cadwallader gives a stand out performance as Rachel’s bitter divorced sister, whose tussle with a portable loo is one of comedy highlights of the night.

The live band, led by Lloyd Gorman as ex-husband Mike, perform cheesy wedding songs in the foyer and pop-up in surprising places throughout care of the smart and tricksy set design by James Button.

The edges still aren’t entirely smooth, the first half could do with trimming, and some of characters don’t quite ring true, but, with Machin once more at the helm, the farcical set pieces work extraordinarily well and there are some strong moments of emotion too.

Raucous and appealing comedy that's as emotionally rich as it is funny