Tag Archives: Laura Fitzpatrick

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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A Glimpse of the Domesticity of Franklin Barnabas – 3 Stars


A Glimpse of the Domesticity of Franklin Barnabas

Pentameters Theatre

Reviewed – 12th October 2018


boils up into something incompletely satisfying, though satisfying nonetheless


The voice of Bernard Shaw crackles like a tinny old wireless, sharing the postulate of Franklyn and Conrad Barnabas: that human life should span three-hundred years, increasing the complexity of modern society. This – the Creative Evolution – is a central idea explored in Shaw’s Back to Methuselah. It is worth pointing out that the Barnabases in question are characters from that very play. By introducing to the original petri dish new characters that elicit effervescent reactions, the production focusses on relationships.

Warm lights bring out a well-to-do 1920s living room full of gold gilt-edges of books, heavy-looking portraits and ceiling roses overhead, offering the glimpse into the heart of this boisterous domestic comedy.

They start as a pair; Franklyn (Edwin Flay) and Conrad (Anthony Wise) who teeter on the edge of clunky exposition as they outline their idea of Creative Evolution and its relevance to the situation at hand: that Clara, Franklyn’s wife, has left the household. Any clunkiness is forgotten when Franklyn’s brother-in-law, Immenso Champernoon (Jonas Cemm) enters the room. He is a brash, hilarious caricature of Shaw’s contemporary, G.K Chesterton (Shaw himself described the portrayal as libellous), who is shoe-horned into the play to commence a contest of ideas.

The rest of the cast are introduced one by one, bickering with Champernoon over the institution of marriage, eastern philosophy, the empire – a seemingly endless list of moral coordinates. Laura Fitzpatrick, as Franklyn’s wife and Immenso’s sister, Clara Barnabas, trails a knowing, contrariness around the stage, winding up the men in her midst and allowing them to argue over the fallout. Her daughter Savvy (Johanna Pearson-Farr) hams-up her flirtation with the Reverend Haslam (William Keetch), but this works with, not against, the action.

Cemm, as Champernoon, bears an uncanny likeness to Chesterton and every fast-paced line spat out with haughtiness feels like it might have been improvised by Chesterton himself. He puns and plays with paradox, blurting out words, arguments and ideas with a blistering wit that’s hard to keep up with at times.

With telegraphed nods to Shavian ideas of feminism and beauty, Mrs Etteen (Julia Faulkner) and Champernoon enter into a long and flirtatious quarrel. The gravity of these interactions is lost among the quick-fire comedy and, when it ends after eighty minutes, I can’t honestly remember having stopped to breathe.

This is a boisterous, rollicking, no-second-wasted production, although it is not without flaws. Published originally in a work entitled Short Stories, Scraps and Shavings, it follows that the structure of the thing is not wholly satisfying. There are no great payoffs to be found here, no sudden intakes of breath, no witty barbs building up, act after act, scene after scene. It is funny. But it all boils up into something incompletely satisfying, though satisfying nonetheless.


Reviewed by Sam Joseph


A Glimpse of the Domesticity of Franklin Barnabas

Pentameters Theatre until 21st October


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