Women of Pensionable Rage opens tonight (Tuesday 25 January) at Chiswick Playhouse. Judy Buxton’s one woman show brings you three characters who’ve been round the block and then some.
There’s Linda – outraged that she is reduced to playing panto at the Palace theatre in Fleetwood rather than the Palace Manchester – Julie, whose eternal regret is that she did not pick up the phone – and Miriam, downtrodden no longer.
The leisurely start draws the audience in as Judy gets into character before your eyes, selecting a wig, a necklace, earrings and a jacket before striding into the spotlight to unveil her first character.
Linda is a TV soap star whose one-nighter with a fellow celebrity left her with a daughter and a contemptuous dislike for gay men who, while they’re in the closet, think they may as well try a bit of the other. A call from her agent, who had booked her into a panto run without even asking her first, prompts a torrent of embittered rage.
Returning to her make-up table to select another wig, jewellery set and jacket, Judy becomes Julie, the redhead in the poster with the strategically placed tattoo. She’s a landlady of holiday lets in Fleetwood, with a gay son who is a hairdresser by day and a drag artist by night. On the day he makes a trip to London’s Soho with his mates – 30 April 1999 – she is busy. The phone won’t stop ringing and she still has four beds to turn down, so she takes it off the hook, and has to live with the consequences for the rest of her life.
Selecting her final wig, necklace, earrings and jacket for her last character, Miriam, Judy becomes the suburban housewife, Miriam, who has ‘lost’ her husband. “I’ve not lost him, he died” she says savagely as she ushers her well-meaning neighbours out of the door after the funeral. It’s not as if she’s misplaced him in Tescos or the local garden centre. Irritated by the well-meaning platitudes, it is only when they have all gone that she is able to give vent to her real feelings: relief that he is gone, after a lifetime of abuse. Now she has a chance to live her own life.
Writer / director Anna-Lisa Marie explores the emotional baggage of three characters, all women of a certain age. I expected them to be linked in some way, their stories intertwined, but all they share is their emotions: bitterness, frustration, sadness, rage. Only the last one has found happiness, in a rather unconventional way.
Actor Judy Buxton brings her considerable experience to the characters. She herself has worked extensively in television and theatre, in everything from School for Scandal, as Lady Teazle, playing opposite Sir Donald Sinden at the Haymarket, to pantomime, though her CV doesn’t reveal if she has ever sunk as low as Fleetwood!
Women of Pensionable Rage is on at the Chiswick Playhouse from Tuesday 25 – Saturday 29 January.
Book tickets through the Chiswick Playhouse website.
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See also: Film reviews by Andrea Carnevali
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