"I don’t think men and women are psychologically distinguishable.” So spoke the authoritative voice of Harvard professor Steven Pinker on Radio 4’s Today programme last Thursday. How different a picture had been presented to me the night before in a play starring a very talented actor of the same name (but for one consonant).

That men and women have mindsets profoundly different — at least where the celebration of weddings is concerned — is a main theme of Father of the Bride, which is being revived in a polished production at the Mill at Sonning. Steven Pinder, who plays the titular dad, rams the point home more than once.

When women say — as his daughter Kay (Evelyn Adams) very definitely does — that they wish their marriage ceremony to be a simple affair, this must not, he says be taken to mean anything of the sort.

The grander the better is what she really wants, he informs the panicking bridegroom Buckley Dunstan (Dale Monie) who genuinely does wish for the minimum of fuss. The same is true, he adds, of the bride’s mother, his wife Elly (Rachel Fielding).

Over this and other astute observations it struck me that playwright Caroline Francke had shown a remarkable gift for thinking herself into the mind of a man.

Then I remembered that the play is based on a novel by Edward Streeter, as were the two films of the same name, in neither of which was there input from Ms Franke. The first (1950) paired Spencer Tracy and the young Liz Taylor; the 1991 revival was a star vehicle for Steve Martin.

Besides possessing a very witty script, fully exploited by the Mill’s cast under director Sally Hughes, the play supplies much enjoyment in showing what happens in a middle-class American home (well presented by designer Terry Parsons) in the run-up to a big wedding.

Having been transformed first with a deluge of gifts, the property is then stripped and bedecked with lights and decorations ready for the reception, under the watchful eye of an Italian party-planner — a fine comic turn from Harry Gostelow — and his churlish lieutenant, played by another Mill favourite, Patrick Monckton.

Also involved in the fun are the bride’s two brothers, amusingly portrayed by Edward Elgood and debuting newcomer Adam Philps, who would be an admirable candidate looks-wise should an actor ever be required to present Prince Harry.

The 1950s period detail is exact throughout, with some wonderful clothes for the ladies from costume designer Jane Kidd.

In all, this is a considerable summer treat at the always-reliable Mill.


Mill at Sonning Dinner Theatre
Until July 21
For tickets, call 0118 969 8000 or visit