5@50, Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester

4.00

As the action gets underway in Brad Fraser's foray into the lives and longings of modern middle-aged womanhood you find yourself thinking – or at least hoping – that being 50 could be a lot of fun. Good friends, plenty of money, nice home: good times beckon. Alas it is not to be. Notching up half a century it seems is not a cause for celebration. It is instead "an endless parade of... sham marriages, failing bodies and abandoned children."

For someone approaching the milestone of Fraser's vision it does not prove an inviting prospect. Equally it is difficult to know quite what those for whom a 50th birthday party is but a distant memory will make of it when looking back the other way through time's telescope. Still there are some good earthy cynical laughs on the way. Fraser, now in his fifties, has suggested that as a gay man he may have a different insight into writing about women compared to heterosexual men. He also said that much of his research took place on Facebook where he was able to quiz female friends on their innermost secret thoughts and desires. Perhaps that is why the characters here feel superficial at times.

Unlike the Canadian's previous plays there is no hardcore nudity or sex on stage. But don't let that put you off because 5@50 is more than just Grumpy Old Women after an all-day session on the vodka coolers. The five in question forged a friendship at the high school prom when none of the boys would dance with them. Since then they have ploughed differing furrows into unhappy later life respectability. Marriage, sex and motherhood have all played their part but it is the subject of booze that galvanises them into collective action again when Olivia stops being a high-functioning alcoholic and becomes an aggressive bore. Perhaps inevitably all the women are revealed to have addictions of their own. For Tricia, a successful newspaper columnist, it is using sex against loneliness. Soccer mom Fern gets her kicks through yoga; Lorene likes to marry while for paediatrician Norma it is a controlling obsession over her lover, Olivia. What this enjoyable play does well is to examine the constraints and joys of longstanding friendships and how difficult they can be to maintain in a meaningful and mutually beneficial way.

To 14 May (0161 833 9833)

Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones