Woman in a Dressing Gown - performed March 1987

By Ted Willis

Performed with the kind permission of

Director - Dennis Murfitt


(in order of appearance)

Amy Preston Val Taylor
Brian Preston Christopher Mason
Jim Preston Dennis Murfitt
Georgie Barlow Leslie Butcher
Hilda Allison Hawkins
Willie Adrian Bolton
Christine Kim Aves

Production Team

Val Taylor, Viv Wheatley, Judi Hussey, Jenny Rollings, Max Eldridge, Bruce Emeny, Michael Monaghan, Dennis Murfitt, Maurice Barber, Greg Garrod, Jenny Glayzer, Gill Baxter, Patience Ling, Viv Wheatley, and other volunteers not mentioned.

The Play

Woman in a Dressing Gown has been described by film historian Jeffrey Richards as "a Brief Encounter of the council flats", taking the scenario of an extra-marital relationship and relocating to a less middle-class setting. However, writer Ted Willis described it more simply, as a film about "good honest fumbling people caught up in tiny tragedies".


First produced as a memorable film in 1958 with Yvonne Mitchell and Anthony Quayle in the leading roles, Ted Willis’s story of the near break-up of a long-established marriage still makes for absorbing theatre in its stage form.
Dennis Murfitt has directed the ebb and flow of the action with common sense and restraint so that the situation speaks for itself and the emotions generated are achingly real.

His own Jim Preston, driven to frustration by the routine of the mundane rut in which he finds himself, and taking the almost statutory escape route of an extra-marital relationship in a bid to renew his lost youth, is quietly developed so that the outbursts at the trap he is in are the more effective by contrast.
The evening belongs however – as it must be if the play is to have its full wounding impact – to Val Taylor’s comfortably happy in flustered domesticity wife Amy. The playing is from the heart – so that the dreaminess, the hurt and the smart and the genuine care and concern for her straying husband, are indelibly etched into the character. I have never seen the part interpreted better on an amateur stage.
The family bond with the son Brian is touchingly suggested with a number of tiny touches of true sensitivity and pathos, and Christopher Mason’s late adolescent catches all the under-currents and the explicit details with great integrity.
Leslie Butcher is crisp, astringent and efficient as the other woman, and Allison Hawkins’ riotously funny descent into drunkenness as Hilda is dovetailed into Amy’s gradual collapse very skilfully. The basic set is a monument to the accident-prone cheerful slovenliness of the mistress of the house, and the costume is carefully geared to the late fifties.
Jimmy James

Manningtree’s Manifest Theatre Group turned in a lively, entertaining, and moving performance of Ted Willis’s poignant drama. The play, set in London in the 1950s, is a familiar tale of a betrayed wife desperately struggling to prevent the break-up of a 20-year-old marriage.

Val Taylor shows great understanding of the frumpy middle-aged Amy Preston. The audience is moved from laughter at her drunken despair to tears as we see her maintain pride, dignity and strength in attempting to maintain the status quo.
Yet her betrayer – Jimbo to the wife, Preston to his lover – is not a despicable cruel husband. He is a weak man whose dreams and life are passing him by. And, like Amy, we allow ourselves to forgive him. The character was splendidly performed by Dennis Murfitt. In Georgie he attempts to find an answer. On the surface no more than a cool, efficient secretary, we soon learn of her innocence and youth. Again an excellent performance from Leslie Butcher.
Despite the obvious sadness, the play at times is extremely funny. Particularly amusing was Amy and her young neighbour Hilda (Allison Hawkins) whose drunken reminiscences had the audience curling with laughter. In an otherwise excellent production, there was an unfortunate delay with the changes of scenery. It is a small criticism and only noticed because the audience were impatient to see more of the engaging production Woman In A Dressing Gown was first produced as a film in 1958 staring Yvonne Mitchell and Anthony Quayle and became one of the film classics of its time.

Photo Shoot

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