Tag Archives: Isabella Inchbald

What I Really Think of my Husband


Golden Goose Theatre

WHAT I REALLY THINK OF MY HUSBAND at the Golden Goose Theatre


“The play has the air of a work in progress, but the five strong cast give it substantial shape”

Despite his literary success as a novelist and a poet, Thomas Hardy was quite a shy personality who tried to keep a precarious control over what aspects of his life were to be divulged and what were not. Although his two marriages have gained public attention, not much is really known beyond the facts. Following Emma’s death (his first wife) he burnt a manuscript of hers entitled ‘What I Think of My Husband’, together with most of her diaries. When Hardy’s second wife, Florence, decided to write a ‘biography’ of him, he retained control by dictating to her virtually the whole of the manuscript.

Writer David Pinner (whose novel ‘Ritual’ inspired the cult film ‘The Wicker Man’) delves deeper with a new play “What I Really Think of My Husband”. Its premiere, at the intimate Golden Goose Theatre, comes without fanfare or frills. The play has the air of a work in progress, but the five strong cast give it substantial shape in Julia Stubbs’ slick and engaging presentation.

When we first meet Thomas Hardy (Edmund Dehn) he has recently published ‘Jude the Obscure’ which received a harsh reception from scandalised critics, and which his first wife, Emma (Laura Fitzpatrick), perceived as being based on their own marriage. Dehn and Fitzpatrick spar like Edward Albee’s George and Martha, surrounded by their imaginary menagerie of cats. The cats have filled the gaps in their childless marriage while the bickering has displaced the romance. Intercut are scenes of the couple in their youth (Andrew Crouch and Aliya Silverstone) as yet unaware of the ephemeral nature of infatuation. When his wife dies, Hardy marries his secretary Florence Dugdale (Isabella Inchbald) who sadly could never really escape the shadow of the first wife. Her aspirations of being the true muse were thwarted by Hardy’s love poetry forever being inspired with Emma in mind.

Pinner’s script has a lyrical flow, referencing Hardy’s poetry such as ‘The Dawn after the Dance’ and ‘The Dead Man Walking’ and lesser-known works as well. There is a Gothic touch, with traces of dark humour. But although he treats the material with care and a poetic sensitivity, the result is a little confusing. Not so much due to the chronological shifts in the narrative, more because of an over emphasis on an extra character, also called Florence, and also played by Inchbald. The first half of the piece is slightly dragged down by the story of Florence Henniker, a poet and novelist who collaborated with Hardy. Inchbald comes into her own as Florence Dugdale in the second act. As Hardy’s secretary she manages to shield herself from Emma’s prophetic warnings. But later, as Hardy’s wife, she has little armour against the ghostly challenges from beyond the grave.

Dehn gives an inspired performance as Hardy, striking the right note of being somewhat unaware of his own excruciating behaviour. Fitzpatrick skilfully avoids throwing Emma into the role of victim and instead elevates the character into lead role material. After all, it is supposed to be her story. Yet it is also billed as a ‘ghost story’ in its marketing, yet this much anticipated through-line doesn’t fully materialise. We want more of the supernatural to manifest itself rather than hover in the twilight zone of the play; and it feels like Pinner has missed a trick here.

They say that ‘behind every great man there is a great woman’. With Thomas Hardy there were two. At least. And a ghost thrown in for good measure. Pinner sheds light on these characters, but it is Stubbs’ production – and the performances – that really bring them to life.


WHAT I REALLY THINK OF MY HUSBAND at the Golden Goose Theatre

Reviewed on 24th November 2023

by Jonathan Evans



Previously reviewed at this venue:

Strangers In Between | ★★★★ | September 2023

What I Really Think of my Husband

What I Really Think of my Husband

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The Hope Theatre

ALTERNATIVITY at  The Hope Theatre



“a clever hour of disguised thoughtfulness which lands with tight performances and commitment”


It’s not a new idea to wonder how the birth of Jesus would have occurred in modern-day Britain, what is new is to approach that question with humour, quick wit and some subtle seriousness. Timothy Blore’s one-hour production is a re-telling of the nativity story where year zero Bethlehem is swapped for 2018 Billericay (think “there’s no room at the inn, the Holiday Inn”) and, whilst it consists almost entirely of nose-tapping references and snappy one-liners, does manage to land as a substantive critique of the moralising upper middle class of this country.

We open with a family of four playing Trivial Pursuit and a sharpened script driving a worryingly accurate portrayal of a mid-life Christmas with grown-ish children. Banter flies across the board as Linda and Michael (Gillian King and Chris Pickles) lead their family in what many in the young audience would recognise as a harrowingly accurate portrayal of being simultaneously berated with and embarrassed by your parents’ experience, knowledge and lifestyle. Matthew (Jack Forsyth Noble) and Luke (Jonathan Savage) are recognisable but not stereotyped; they are young men looking to establish themselves without actually rebelling against their life of plenty. The payload of the show is delivered in the last half an hour as Maria (Bella Nash) and Joe (Clemente Lohr) arrived after being made homeless, and ask if they can sleep inside, only to be placed in the shed.

A serious theme is smuggled to the audience inside the banter and references, giving the solid foundation necessary for the joking not to seem frivolous and self-aggrandising. But the message is simple and summed up most memorably with “you must live on cloud Corbyn if you think we’re going to let a couple of gypos stay”. A great script was delivered well by the entire cast ably directed by Scott le Crass. The rehearsal and thought that had clearly gone into the show led to both clarity and great amusement.

At times the piece serves the clever references of the writer, not the other way around but it’s hard to care when there is such fun and wit scattered throughout. Ultimately, Alternativity is a clever little show full of disguised thoughtfulness which lands with tight performances and commitment on stage and off.


Reviewed by William Nash

Reviewed – 9th December 2018

Photography by Amanda Urvall Nyrén 



Hope Theatre until 17th December


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Adam & Eve | ★★★★ | May 2018
Worth a Flutter | ★★ | May 2018
Cockamamy | ★★★★ | June 2018
Fat Jewels | ★★★★★ | July 2018
Medicine | ★★★ | August 2018
The Dog / The Cat | ★★★★★ | September 2018
The Lesson | ★★★★ | September 2018
Jericho’s Rose | ★★★½ | October 2018
Gilded Butterflies | ★★ | November 2018
Head-rot Holiday | ★★★★ | November 2018


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