Written for Whats On Stage
Keep buggering on!” as a grumpy old Prime Minister once famously coined. It’s a suitably resilient attitude and one that the scowling members of the Grumpy Brigade, currently recruiting at the West End’s sedate Novello Theatre, would certainly like everyone to take notice of – and that means you, Private!
Bossy, no nonsense and bizarrely flatulent, Susie Blake, Wendi Peters and Jenny Eclair have reached their grumpy prime and are here to sort out emotionally wet Britain. Through a homespun tapestry of lectures, sketches and carefully contrived diatribes, these three eschew the idea of the domestic goddess to embrace the curmudgeonly middle-aged woman within. Comfortable underwear and an early night are the order of the day.
But it’s not all straight-laced sense; our ‘Grumpies’ take great pleasure in the wackiness afforded with the onset of old age. And with the occasional kitchen disco thrown in for good measure, this is also a very silly and at times delightfully childish show.
Most of all though these members of the Grumpy Sisterhood moan. Under attack? ‘Yankiness’ (wankiness and Yanks), and bankers (muggers with red socks and posh girlfriends), teenaged girls on buses with patronising stares and how women’s bad relationship with food is all His fault (God’s a man, obviously). It’s an amusing rant, but it lacks any real bile as these polished performers grimace and grouse with a calm confidence that belies any actual anger.
Owen Lewis’ smooth direction makes sure that each moment is carefully choreographed. But whilst he does a fabulous job of powering on a piece mainly consisting of grumbling, there’s little space left for any ‘live’ moments. Tellingly, some of the largest laughs come when the cast make mistakes and riff off script; as we’re bombarded by performances otherwise full of artfully crafted ‘fun’ giggles and burps, these flashes of spontaneity come like breaths of fresh air, and are some of the funniest of the night.
Susie Blake seems to be the most alive to these moments of real play – and most natural overall – and, although Jenni Eclair’s comedy is at times overly grotesque, it’s hard not to raise a smile when she likens her proudly homegrown tomatoes to being as tasteless and bland as fellatio on Tim Henman!
A little more umbrage and a little less shine would make these Grumpy Old Women real forces to be reckoned with. As it is, they’re as feisty as a Delia Smith crumble, but for the largely middle-aged female audience, obviously as pleasant too.
Runs until Saturday 05 June.