Dillie Keane is no stranger to musing on female foibles in an ensemble situation, as her work with Fascinating Aida in the Eighties shows. Twenty years on, Grumpy Old Women requires Keane (with Linda Robson and Jenny Eclair) to dispense similarly withering remarks on fashion and food fads - except without musical accompaniment, and with a tone that's more end of the pier than Noel Coward.
Having said that, the show does not lack sophistication. I particularly enjoyed it when the trio introduce themselves - and then do so again, for the benefit of any short-sighted audience members, as Su Pollard (Eclair), Esther Rantzen (Keane) and Wendy Richards (Robson).
The trio's gripes and groans, made famous on television, is acted out in a cosy living room set. Their complaints are not all gender-specific. I'm sure that the other men in the audience (all three of them) would join in the blood-rush experienced when complaining to shops and service providers. Nor are all the quirks age-specific: "Some days I even remember my pin number," quips Keane wistfully. But when Robson complains that she is pointing her daughter's mobile phone at the television rather than the remote, the natural demographic of the show is exposed.
While Linda Robson booms through the show like an estuary-twanged washerwoman, Keane protests like a Hyacinth Bucket with attitude, but it is Eclair's husky voice that is the dominant force and most often gets the last laugh. Much as I hate to break up a trinity, holy or unholy, Eclair's saucy suss was the show-stealer.
The 46-year-old comic's monologues gave the show its momentum, drawing the bigger laughs with her one-liners ("I can hardly resist the temptation to give a wedgie to girls flashing their thongs") even where her line was not the climax of the sequence. Not only that, she was the only one of the three who was ever likely to get away with wearing a pair of green tights.
There is little doubt that the majority of the material in this show, script-edited by Richard Herring, hits the mark. In the interval I hear the beginnings of two separate conversations that testify to this. One begins: "I phoned the council twice to complain today..." and the other: "My sister has complained at her supermarket so many times that I'm surprised she hasn't been banned."
The biddies of Bromley, it would appear, are sated.
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