What the Women Did, theatre review: 'Deeply funny and touching'

Southwark Playhouse, London

Two's Company present a fascinating commemorative triple bill of dramatic rarities from the 1920s about the experiences of the women left behind in Blighty during the First World War.

What comes through strongly in Tricia Thorns' engaging productions is the sense of inferiority and isolation felt by those who did not have menfolk fighting at the Front. In the sharp, lively Handmaidens of Death by Herbert Tremaine (aka Maud Deuchar), a bitchy, socially diverse gang of munitions workers are united only by frustration at the dearth of men. As a wheeze, they tuck letters to “Fritz” into the shells they are making and get a decidedly haunting response. 

In the dourly comic Luck of War by Gwen John, the husband she believed had died in action returns home to his remarried spouse and children. The highlight of the evening, though, is J M Barrie's The Old Lady Shows Her Medals. A childless elderly Scots char in London invents for herself a brawny son in the Black Watch by selecting a name from a newspaper. But when the strapping young soldier alarmingly arrives to call her bluff, the fantasy gradually turns to reality in a way that Susan Wooldridge and Simon Darwen make deeply funny and touching.

To February 15; 020 747 0234