We've now decided which woman is playing which wife. Julie, as Clara Soppitt, has the delightful task of hen-pecking poor Matthew; Kiera, as Annie Parker, is on the receiving end of the bullying attentions of Robin; and as Maria Helliwell, yours truly will spar with James, but maintaining - we think - honours approximately even.
The couples meet in the Charing Cross Centre to start to work through our introductory scene. After an initial readthrough, we begin to discuss the situation we find ourselves in. These three couples are celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary: is this actually a cause for celebration? The main reason for marking the occasion seems to be less a celebration of love and more of determination and longevity. We wonder what on earth Annie saw in the bullying Albert, and whether poor Herbert had any say in his relationship with Clara - or whether the dynamic has changed across twenty-five years.
There is laughter at the anecdote of a diamond wedding anniversary involving a (shall we say) difficult gentleman and his long-suffering wife. "Imagine being married to him for sixty years. You only get twelve for murder." When the laughter dies down, we all look rather stricken and say "Actually, that's very sad..."
The relationships are given a new set of possibilities when Genevieve introduces us to 'actioning': a neat way of identifying, using one descriptive word, what precisely the character intends to say in a particular phrase. Too detailed to use on an entire play (at least, when we're limited in rehearsal time as we are), it's clear that it is nonetheless useful if we have difficulty with the integrity of a line or a situation.
For example, my own second line - complaining about Mrs Northrop, the charlady - is broken down thus:
(warns) Trouble with her is -
(exposes) she likes a drop -
(confides) I've smelt it before today.
Change the actioning verb, change the whole colour (and intention) of the line. Useful.