sat 11/07/2020

Grumpy Old Women, Dorking Halls | reviews, news & interviews

Grumpy Old Women, Dorking Halls

Grumpy Old Women, Dorking Halls

Jenny Eclair and Co prove that witty moaning is a British institution

One assumes that the gripes expressed on the TV version are the contributors’ own, but on stage it’s a scripted piece by Judith Holder and comedian Jenny Eclair. Appearing alongside Eclair on this second touring version, entitled Chin Up Britain, are actresses Wendi Peters (Coronation Street) and Susie Blake (also Coronation Street and Victoria’s Wood’s As Seen on TV).

I saw it at Dorking Halls in Surrey, and it was a brave man (or perhaps one who was about to gain a free pass to go down the pub any time he liked for the next year) who joined the almost entirely female throng. The women were aged mostly from mid-thirties upwards and appeared to be universally dressed by M&S (which indeed formed a very funny riff in the show) and they lapped up material that covered everything from the bad manners and sloppy diction of today’s youngsters to the pleasures of dry white wine and the invisibility of older women. There was much laughter of recognition.

Eclair gets the more risqué material and stage action. Dorking wasn’t really appreciative of some of the raunchier lines about hand-jobs for husbands or her mimicking masturbation. But they lapped up other stuff - about how Margaret Mountford from The Apprentice is a demi-god, the trials of having a weak bladder and why women turn into bossy boots past the age of 50. Among the comedy was some touching and insightful stuff too, and Blake’s beautifully delivered section on the perils of the menopause was moving and funny. As Eclair said about the change of life, “It goes from one long party to being tedious old shit.”

For my taste a little too much of the evening is of a predictable “men and women are so different” variety, or based on crass generalisations. Not all women are perpetually on diets, lots of women really do understand the offside rule in football, and no, men don’t drive me mad in my kitchen by using all the pots and pans to make a simple meal. And I’m the one who gets out of washing up by ‘”leaving things to soak”.

I must confess that on the way to the show I ticked only one box in the title; I am indeed a woman, but not old or grumpy. A combination of dreamy suburban driving, 4x4s taking up two spaces in the car park and not being able to take drinks into the auditorium were, however, conspiring both to age and annoy me. But no matter, the show was funny from the off and there was great pleasure to be had from watching the reactions of the two young male technicians in the sound box in front of me; they ranged from amused to bemused in the space of a sentence. I would like to think it was an education for them and one that will stand their future wives in good stead.

Despite pacy direction by Owen Lewis, which uses the kitchen setting to great comedic effect, Grumpy Old Women is too long at two-and-a-half hours, and if you are remotely young at heart you may feel that much of the material is about a generation, possibly even two, older than yours. But then you can grump about that on the way home.

Grumpy Old Women is touring until 10 December. Book here

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