Friday, 19 June 2009

Women On The Verge Of HRT, Devonshire Park Theatre,Eastbourne,Louise Jameson, Janet Dibley

Women On The Verge Of HRT
Devonshire Park Theatre Eastbourne

16th-20th June 2009
Performance seen
Tuesday, June 16th

Women On The Verge Of HRT starring Louise Jameson, Janet Dibley and Aidan O'Neill

Fergal - Aidan O'Neill

2009 must be menopausal year or something in theatreland . Hot on the heels of Menopause The Musical here we have Women On The Verge Of HRT.

With the menopause being the subject of both shows it is easy to draw comparisons between the two productions. But they are very different.

Louise Jameson stars as Vera in Women On The Verge Of HRTVera and Anna are friends and also 2 very obsessed Daniel O'Donnell fans staying in his hotel, The Viking House Hotel, in Kincasslagh.

Vera is convinced she has hit the menopause and that basically her whole world has come to an end as a result. No man, no sex, she's convinced she's ugly, unattractive and "past it".

Anna meanwhile is convinced she has the perfect marriage and that everything in her life is rosy and blooming despite the fact she is on the verge of "the change".

Two friends, with very different views on life sharing their womanly experiences.

The ever so helpful, handsome, young, hotel waiter Fergal finds himself in the middle of these hormonal women trying to cater for their every need.

Essentially Women On The Verge Of HRT is a comedy. But it is a much more unusual production than Menopause The Musical which was a sort of continuous light hearted look at the menopause.

This show has two very different acts.

Janet Dibley stars as Anna in Women On the Verge Of HRTAct 1 takes place in the hotel bedroom. This act is the more light hearted look at how the menopause is affecting the women. All the usual menopausal symptoms are joked about from hot flushes to night sweats - from sleep problems to sexual problems. With Vera (Louise Jameson) practically offering herself to Fergal on a plate whilst Anna (Janet Dibley) actively encourages her - there are laughs-a-plenty.

After this Act 2 comes as a bit of a shock as it is so completely different from the first. The 3 characters have ventured out of the hotel on to the beach of Donegal Bay.

To the sounds of the wind, the waves and the screaming banshee this is a much more soul searching experience as far as the women are concerned. Whilst this is still essentially a comedy this is a much darker, serious, thought provoking look at the effects (and perhaps after-effects) of the menopause.

Fergal undergoes weird but amazing transformations into the nearest and dearest of the two women. Male partners, female friends, he portrays them all. The women both learn more than a few home truths that some of their current menopausal feelings and emotions may be well misplaced.

I have to say (even as a minority bloke in the understandably female dominated audience) I thought Aidan O'Neill was excellent in the role. He has a long theatrical background and has done some TV presenting. But he is not the household name that the two ladies are. But in this show I feel he was the scene-stealer.

In act one his humerous banter with Vera and Anna is hilarious and he even gets the chance to demonstate an impressive singing ability. In act 2 we see Aidan's superb ability to throw himself into so many different acting styles, even playing the opposite sex.

Aidan O'Neill stars as Fergal in Women On The Verge Of HRTI am fully aware, from mutterings, that some people in the, mainly elderly, audience didn't really understand Act 2 - especially Fergal's character changes.

However, even as a mere man, I think this was a good move on the part of writer Marie Jones.

It would have been easy to continue this look at "the change" in the same light hearted way that Act 1 did (and as did Menopause The Musical). But if this was the case I think it may have become a tad boring as all the menopausal symptoms had been covered in that first half of the show.

I thought Act 2 being deeper and somewhat mysterious does leave you with the feeling at the end of this play that you have seen something a little different from the norm.

I enjoyed Women On The Verge Of HRT, which can't be all bad when understandably it's going to be aimed at women.

The play works because of the very different presentations of the same subject matter across both acts. Also because it is superbly acted by 3 of the friendliest actors we have had the pleasure of meeting this year.

I must add a final note of praise to Jo Cameron Brown who is quoted as being the dialect coach. Louise Jameson and Janet Dibley's ability to hold a perfect and consistent Irish accent was impressive. Irish born Aidan O'Neill didn't have to work at this - for obvious reasons.

So if you're happy to accept a male view on a play which will probably, and somewhat sadly, mainly be seen by women, I thought it was very good - and very different!

4 out of 5 for Women on the verge of HRT 2009

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