Move Over Mrs Markham
by Ray Cooney and John Chapman
For some time now the marriage of Philip and Joanna Markham has resembled a still-life; it is very harmonious and very still. Philip Markham manages, together with his partner Henry Lodge, a moderately successful publishing business specialising in children’s books, the office of which is situated underneath his flat. While Philip works more than is good for his marriage, playboy Henry consumes more “business dinners” than are good for his.
On this particular evening the Markhams are getting ready to go to a publishers’ dinner when Henry and Linda Lodge – both unaware of each other’s intention – ask the Markhams a favour of a somewhat delicate nature. Both of them have had the sudden inspiration to make use of the empty flat for a little extra-marital adventure. Linda plans her first little caper in order to pay back Henry in his own coin while Henry has a blind date with a telephone operator. While Linda is manipulating her friend Joanna into lending her the apartment by describing the torments of Walter Pangbourne, currently pining away for her, a page of his last love letter slips between the couch cushions. Meanwhile Henry has also twisted Philip around his little finger and so the Lodges, oblivious of the situation, steer towards a fatal double-booking of the Markham marital bed. However, worse is to come as Sylvie, the Swiss au-pair, has decided that tonight the time has co me to surrender to the advances of Alistair Spenlow, an interior designer, who has been “beautifying” the flat for the last three months and incidentally driving Mr Markham almost crazy with his extraordinary colour combinations.
The inevitable happens: Philip finds the page of Linda’s love letter and with Henry’s active help, soon comes to the conclusion that Joanna is having an affair with Alistair who unceasingly dan ces attendance on her. When the bewildered Philip demands an explanation, Alistair, believing it concerns his flirtation with the au-pair, freely confesses. Completely overwhelmed by this unabashed admission, Philip offers the presumed riyal his marital bed, his pyjamas and his astonished wife and leaves the house in a towering rage.
After Joanna has recovered from her shock, she decides to punish Philip for his suspicions and do as he suggests. They slip into something a bit more comfy while, at first unnoticed, unwished-for visitors start arriving. Amidst the confusion, disaster strikes forcing Joanna to create an illusion of virtuousness out of the frivolous chaos: Olive Harriet Smythe, authoress of a most successful series of children’s books and an eccentric old maid, bursts in on the scene with the intention on putting herself under contract to Markham and Lodge as her current publisher has in her opinion, released an obscene book.
As Miss Smythe meets Alistair, the interior designer, in pyjamas, Joanna has to pass hirn off as her husband thereby setting off a chain reaction which forces her to give all the other characters, as they slowly emerge from hiding, a new identity while simultaneously Henry tries desperately to settle the contract. Thus Philip becomes the butler Philips, Walter is now Philip’s father, Linda the clumsy au-pair, Alistair a “Labradoodle”, Sylvie becomes butler Philips’ wife and the scantily-clad telephone operator his mistress. Confused? That’s nothing compared to those involved!