Arts Reviews

“A Light-Hearted And Enjoyable Night Out”- Theatre Review: The Clothes They Stood Up In @ Nottingham Playhouse

Isabelle Hunter

Mr and Mrs Ransome return from a night at the opera to find their home has been robbed (or is it burgled?). Every single one of their possessions – gone. From the light fittings, to the ‘sticky chicken casserole’ on the stove. But how did this happen, and who could have done such a thing? The audience follows the couple through unravelling the mystery of the missing belongings, while revealing hidden meanings to their relationship. Isabelle Hunter reviews.

Adrian Scarborough and Sophie Thompson star in this beautifully authentic play, depicting the perfect middle-class, and slightly naïve to the ‘real world’, couple. I was over the moon to see two actors who I’ve admired for years come together to perform at the local Nottingham Playhouse. While Scarborough has been a huge presence in my teen years through Gavin and Stacey and Miranda, Thompson has recently portrayed the wife of an unbearable upper-class ‘village-owner in BBC’s Ghosts.

I was thrilled to see elements of her portrayal of Bunny in the performance of Mrs Ransome, particularly through the nuances of her voice and body language, which always brought fits of laughter throughout the audience.

The pre-show playlist features classical opera music, along with recordings of audience response and clapping. This sets the tone for the rest of theatrical piece perfectly, as we are greeted with a stark spotlight on the leading couple at the opera. The opening dialogue sets the precedent for the archetypes of characteristics, setting the tone for some running jokes throughout the play, such as Mr Ransome regularly reminding us he is “a solicitor!”

This feels like a modern day version of the mockery

It was clear from the beginning that this brilliantly clever show would never fall flat with the audience, as we clung onto every word possible. With regular references to stereotypical ‘middle-class’ life, such as discussions of daytime TV, John Lewis, and Marks and Spencer, it becomes apparent, quickly, that this play is targeting a middle-class audience. In a way similar to Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, this feels like a modern day version of the mockery. Laughs erupted after each reference to ‘Lorraine Kelly’, or Mr Ransome’s ‘Hi-Fi system’. And, as a Gen Z member of the audience, I particularly liked the adaptation to suit the younger guests present: “You don’t have a smartphone, so no TikTok?”

The character of Partridge (Ned Costello) struck me to begin with, a graduate police officer who was ‘trying his best’ with each question. I resonate with his character strongly, as he portrays the slightly nervous feeling of starting a new job perfectly.

The set design (Robert Jones) is simplistic at times, where it needs to be, allowing the audience to focus fully on the action onstage. Their home is just as stark as expected, utilising a raised platform with a neutral wash across the flat. However, the modest set pieces to depict a change in environment are cleverly used, such as a spinney desk chair for the customer service assistant at the ‘Removals’ store. I enjoyed the more elaborate set design for said removals store, complete with an array of colourful lights for one moment in particular (which I won’t spoil!), contrasting nicely to the neutral wash we regularly see in the apartment.

The audience unravels the mystery at the same time as the Ransomes

I will say, at moments, I found myself lost within the plot. Sometimes I struggled to keep up with the dialogue, or understand exactly what was happening onstage. Finally, the ending felt slightly abrupt and unexpected. However, I also feel this was meant to happen, as the audience unravels the mystery at the same time as the Ransomes. Simultaneously, we see that character development happen before our eyes. Nevertheless, this doesn’t take away from the clever presentation of comedy in which Scarborough adapted brilliantly.

If you are on the hunt for a light-hearted and enjoyable night out at the Nottingham Playhouse, I would highly recommend seeing The Clothes They Stood Up In before it closes in early October. Scarborough’s adaptation will make you laugh, cry, and, at moments, take your breath away.

Isabelle Hunter

Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.

In-article image 1 courtesy of @charliedemelo via No changes were made to this image.

In-article image 2 courtesy of @readbymother via No changes were made to this image.

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