Women on the Verge of HRT, Vaudeville Theatre, London\
Wednesday 05 March 1997
If a wand could be waved to produce this transposition, the keenest volunteer to do the waving would probably be Vera, the fortysomething Belfast divorcee who is played by the author in Marie Jones's enjoyable but patchy comedy Women on the Verge of HRT. With her friend Anna (Eileen Pollock), this character is on a weekend jaunt in Donegal to see Ireland's answer to Cliff Richard, Daniel O'Donnell.
Cosy, caring and Christian, he's the kind of boyish country musician, who, when he says, "Ladies and Gentleman, remember this. The kettle is always on the boil in Kincasslagh", isn't making an idle pledge. At the start of Pam Brighton's well-acted Dubbeljoint production, there's film footage of the annual jamboree where O'Donnell invites the fans to his home for a cup of tea. The feeding of the five thousand would seem like quite a mild catering coup by comparison, the singer's much-praised ability "to make you feel you're the only one" put, one would have thought, to the stiffest of tests on these occasions.
Vera's enjoyment of the weekend has been severely diminished, however, by the fact that her fiftysomething former husband, despite having "no money, no hobbies, no interests", has recently got married to a girl half his age. It's the biological injustice of it that's galling. Back in the hotel room, Vera rages against a culture where people can't take the idea of older women and sex seriously, hence the fun made of O'Donnell's fans. Jokily interspersed with Celtic songs, the play whisks the women out to Donegal Bay. Here, as dawn approaches, a conveniently magical waiter (Dessie Gallagher) assumes the identities of figures from their lives back in Belfast and Vera decides that the myth of the screaming banshee needs rewriting: "The poor banshee/ Was like you and me/ She just didn't want to lie down and die."
I found it hard to believe that a woman whom Ms Jones, in both her acting and her writing, makes so witheringly witty and mettlesome, would not be thinking in more radical terms than Vera allows herself here. As she bangs on about "lie-down-and-die clinics" and "ugly camps", it would seem that she has sex on her mind to the exclusion of just about everything else except, perhaps, romance. And on that subject, too, her concern is not that the songs themselves offer a distorting simplification of sexual relationships but that she can't as easily imagine herself as the woman in them.
Even granted the locality, the fact that Vera lives in a world where the role of women is rapidly changing gets under emphasised. Certainly, the 25-year-old who has married Vera's husband is no trailblazer. Is it possible that a young woman these days would get hitched to a man twice her age simply as an insurance policy against the fate of her jilted mother? But, then, perhaps one should not underestimate the unreconstructed sexism of a society where, we learn, that men like me who have an all-girl family are known as "sissy pricks"n
To 31 May. Booking: 0171-836 9987
film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
- 2 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 3 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 4 Game of Thrones season 5 trailer: The first full-length look is here
- 5 Rashida Jones speaks out against male-centric porn saying 'women should have sex and feel good about it'
Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
Game of Thrones really doesn't want Danny Dyer - EastEnders star rejected three times
Game of Thrones season 5 trailer: The first full-length look is here
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
25 years of Disney: How Darth Vader, Iron Man, Elsa and Pixar's geniuses helped the company conquer the world (again)
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
King Abdullah dead: We can't afford not to hold Saudi Arabia's royals to account