Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Women On The Verge Of HRT - Darlington Civic Theatre

Women on the Verge of HRT by Marie Jones
Director: Noreen Kershaw

Reviewer: Ian Cain

Darlington Civic Theatre seems to have gone all ‘womany’ of late. With productions of ‘The Vagina Monologues’, ‘Hot Flush!’ and ‘Women On The Verge Of HRT’ all being staged in one season, it’s enough to make a man wonder if his patronage is wanted anymore!

The latest offering, ‘Women On The Verge Of HRT’, is a three-hander that stars Louise Jameson, Janet Dibley and Aidan O’Neill. The premise sees two menopausal Belfast women taking a trip to Donegal to see the object of their infatuation, Daniel O’Donnell, perform in concert. During the trip, Vera (Louise Jameson) and Anna (Janet Dibley) come face to face with the realities of their lives – loveless marriages, husbands in mid-life crisis and the menopause.

It started out promisingly. The first act involved the two best friends having a heart to heart in their hotel room and seemed to offer the perfect setting for a conversation that should have been frank, funny and poignant. Instead, writer Marie Jones wasted the opportunity and buried the best one-liners amongst a heap of cliché-ridden dialogue. The performances of Jameson and Dibley were marred by Irish accents that were unconvincing and, because of the absence of microphones, some of the dialogue was inaudible. Miss Jameson was also required to repeatedly ‘smoke’ one of the most unconvincing fake cigarettes that I have ever seen.

The conversation between the two women was frequently interrupted by Fergal (Aidan O’Neill), a waiter ‘who looks like Daniel O’Donnell’ providing room service. This produced some good comedy moments as Vera tried to ‘come on’ to the naive young man. However, it all went wrong when, out of the blue, he burst into song with a tribute to ‘The Dawn Over Donegal’, complete with revolving glitterball and mood lighting.

The second act took the characters out of the hotel room setting and placed them on the beach of Donegal Bay. The plotline became more and more preposterous as the three characters found themselves haunted by the restless soul of a wailing banshee. It turned out that she was once a young and beautiful fairy who lost the love of her eternally youthful beau as she withered with age. The collision between the present and the past became even more barmy when the banshee gave Vera and Anna the power to call up the spirits of their husbands and rivals (who aren’t even dead!) and take temporary possession of Fergal’s body. This resulted in Aidan O’Neill having to play three male and two female characters in quick succession. This he did with consistency – they were all badly acted.

It is a shame that this production degenerated into crude farce as it could have been a funny, feisty and fearless glimpse into the world of the menopausal woman. Instead, the drama, comedy, farce and songs were never integrated into one dramatic narrative and the dominant theme seemed to say that the only male worthy of a woman’s love is Daniel O’Donnell, because ‘he makes women feel special.’ Tosh!

‘Women On The Verge Of HRT’ runs at Darlington Civic until Saturday 16th May 2009.
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