Theatre review: The Final Test

The Final Test by Chris Palin at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, July 14. Review by ANGELA SINGER.

IT’S a good idea for a play. A couple who have been married for 40 years move out of their home – except the husband is so detached he hasn’t noticed that his wife has sold the house.

He is so preoccupied with listening to the cricket on his headphones in the garden, that he is oblivious to the packing up indoors.

A new, younger couple move in, yet he refuses to leave. It’s a great theatrical device for examining two flaky marriages at once.

Sadly, in its present form, this first play by novelist Chris Paling, just doesn’t work. There is no real gist to the quarrel of either couple and the writing isn’t slick or witty enough to get over that.

It isn’t credible that a woman in her 60s would sell a lovely home and garden and leave her affectionate husband (who brings her flowers every week and mends things) essentially because he doesn’t want to go on a cruise.

Does it really ring true that a young woman who has been trying to get pregnant for five years would consider a termination – just because her mother thought the couple weren’t getting on?

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There have been great plays written about breaking marriages but this isn’t one of them. It has glimpses of humour but overall it’s tedious.

Colin Baker, as Peter the older husband and Peter Amory as Ray, the younger one make valiant efforts to breathe life into the play with accomplished, understated and natural performances. Karen Ford is moving as Peter’s wife. However, even they can’t rescue this hackneyed hotchpotch.