'The Hothouse' was one of the most popular entries in the series of Armchair Theatre plays which ran on British television from 1956 to 1974, and scored very high ratings on its first transmission.
Apart from the first scene, set at the annual dance for the employees of a chain of supermarkets, there are only four characters showcased in this drama of ambition and infidelities, with four actors working at the top of their game. Diana Rigg makes her debut TV appearance (which would eventually win her the role of The Avengers' Emma Peel) as Anita Fender, twenty-eight, mother of two, a bit of lush and suspecting her marriage has gone stale. Veteran Armchair Theatre player Harry H Corbett plays her tycoon husband Harry Fender, who has built up the supermarket business from the time he was a delivery boy in his teens - he's now over forty and obsessed with developing the exotic plants in his hothouse.
Into this brew are dropped the recently married Parsleys - Gordon (Donald Churchill, who wrote this play) is assistant manager at one of the supermarket branches and hopes to be promoted to manager; his wife Charlotte (Miranda Connell) is a blonde stunner who has already attracted the eye of the boss at the annual dance, where they performed a tango together.
The main premise of the story is what happens when Anita invites the Parsleys for the weekend, and presents Miranda with a proposition which could secure her husband his promotion. But does everything go to plan? This play is a delight, funny (there's one delicious double-take between Corbett and Connell which is hilarious), spicy, and surprising. Rigg definitely makes an impression and Corbett removes thoughts of Harold Steptoe with his bored and passionate lover of blondes. Connell also shows a deft gift for comedy and Churchill doesn't disappoint in a role which he clearly relishes playing.
This lost gem can be viewed on DVD as an extra on the restored Avengers series four release. It's not to be missed.
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