Wednesday, September 12, 2012

At the Q: Biddies

Actually, I saw this at the Street, a few months ago, before reviving this blog, but it oddly had a separately leg of the tour at the Q a few days ago, and my information is that it hadn't changed.  So really this is probably only for the benefit of those who might be unhappy to have missed it.

It's probably best summed up as: the flesh was willing but the spirit was weak.  The set - a primary schoolroom where the ladies are locked in - was good.  Costuming, sound, lighting - all perfectly fine.  The actors are all very strong indeed.

But it's a limp script with a weak plot, and a singalong let's-put-on-a-show-in-the-old-barn ending that is frankly embarrassing for cast and audience alike.

The premise is that five ladies of mature years (who the hell uses the expression "biddies" anyway?) get locked in the schoolroom where they have their weekend stitch-and-bitch session. It's always very obvious that the ladies are going to get themselves locked in, and one of the better aspects of the script is that it recognises this and so lampshades it with a long series of fake-outs where you think they're going to be locked in, but aren't.  Once they are: cue lots of deep discussions about life, the universe and everything.  It's a bit cliched and predictable until their old schoolteacher turns up to let them out, but insteads locks herself in as well and starts to lecture them on what failures they all are - then it just gets surreal, and not in a good way.  One by one the women reclaim their self-esteem and apparently the way to demonstrate this is to get them done up in sequins and singing disco numbers.

While the whole "get the audience to clap and sing along" thing is a particular dislike of mine (Music Hall and similar tropes excepted), I recognise that a lot of people enjoy it, but the audience struggled to engage the night I saw this, and I've heard similar reports from a couple of other nights, too.  It doesn't fit.

The cast is stellar: Annie Byron is the dizzy and unhappily married Jess; Maggie Blinco the wise and erudite spinster Agnes; Linden Wilkinson the relatively normal (but incontinent) widow;  Julie Hudspeth the purse-lipped prude Ruth;, Donna Lee the attention-seeking and much-married Connie, and Victoria Garrett the cartoonishly nasty schoolteacher Miss Cantwell.  But the script doesn't give them a lot to work with - the only memorable line comes when Connie bleats down the phone to yet another in a line of useless husbands: "I am not a nag! I'm just a woman who wasn't listened to the first time!"

Playwright Don Reid had reasonable success with Codgers, a similar story of men of advancing years. But his insights into women, while respectful, rarely ring as truly, and he is treading ground that has been much more hashed over.  So while not an entirely wasted evening, in my view these misses were not a hit.

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