The Virginia Monologues: Why it's Great to be Sixty, Gilded Balloon

Age cannot wither her
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The Independent Culture

According to Virginia Ironside, doyenne of Fleet Street and agony aunt extraordinaire, one of the myriad pleasures of hitting one's sixties is the confidence that comes with old age. And one need look no further than Ironside herself for the proof.

At the distinguished age of 65, having eschewed a reading in the cosy confines of the Book Festival at Charlotte Square Gardens or a couple of dates in an "Evening with..." format, reading the odd diary note here, answering the odd question there, the writer has signed up for a full month of stand-up shows at the Gilded Balloon.

And what a delightfully refreshing addition she makes to the scene, too. With a vase of fresh-cut flowers beside her and dressed in an elegant sea-green dress, sparkly brooch and, bit of a shock this, neon-pink patent high heels (to stop her looking like a librarian on stage, apparently), she's poised, polite, with cut-glass diction and unexpectedly spot-on comic timing.

The show, directed by Nigel Planer (there's a Young Ones joke to be made there somewhere), is a gentle, life-affirming ramble through the joys of being a sexagenarian – the bus passes, the bird-watching, the glamorous dressing gowns and the grandchildren. That description, though, hardly does justice to the sharpness of the observation and writing here. "Don't wear glasses on strings," she advises us schoolmarm-like. "They make you look deaf." Elsewhere, Miami is likened to Hove, "but with gangsters", and the fluffy-haired vision of old age as imagined on Bupa leaflets comes in for a good kicking.

No stand-up show would be complete without a little sex, drugs and rock'n'roll and Ironside covers all of these with great gusto, from an ecstatic riff on the pleasures of pills (the drug dealing routine is the strongest in the show), to intimate encounters with old men "with chests like rolled-up Austrian blinds" and reminiscences from her time as a rock columnist on The Daily Mail in the Sixties. She doesn't shy away from death either in a beautifully judged segment towards the end.

Though the audience is largely pensioners (who make up a vast segment of Fringe ticket buyers), this is a witty show for all ages, providing a lunchtime oasis of grown-up calm and wisdom amid the histrionics of the festival. Plus, it's the first, and probably the last, time you'll ever hear a colostomy-bag showstopper or a glucosamine sulphate-related heckle.

To 31 August, not 18 or 25 (0131-622 6552)

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