Wednesday, January 25, 2017


Chelmsford Theatre Workshop at the Old Court Theatre

The joys and sorrows of women's lives, reflected in the wardrobe mirror. This show, by sisters Nora and Delia Ephron, takes its many monologues from Ilene Beckerman's book of the same name.
Like The Vagina Monologues – done to great acclaim at this address last year – it's often staged as a celebrity reading. Not here: Sally Ransom has set the action on a catwalk; there's some fashion-show strutting, too, with music tracks to match.
But no clothes-hanger mannequins, just seven ordinary women; all of the actors successfully suggest the triumphs and the tribulations behind the boots and the purses, the skirts and the socks. And they also open up in the programme about the one garment that means most to them personally.
The confessional style works well in the monologues: the inspired “Hate my purse” soliloquy, the perfect shirt, the touching Southern fantasy, immediately followed by the searing “that's my dress!” trauma. There are ensemble numbers, too: The “Black!” sextet [all the costumes are black, too, save for the wordless three brides number], the three sisters, the changing room, the brassiere parade, the “nothing to wear” sequence. Perhaps some of them could be snappier; a greater variety of pace would help keep the audience engaged.
Stephanie Yorke-Edwards plays Gingy, the artist and author whose collection of clothes sketches became the book and then the play. She is particularly moving as the “forgotten woman” grandmother at the end, who realises that her personal thoughts were personal to other people too. Her six fellow actors play many characters, from the ungrateful teenagers to the mastectomy survivor. They are Jacquie Newman, Sally Rawlins, Leanne Young, Charlotte Norburn, Caroline Dunsmuir and Helen Quigley.

Between them they bring to life a huge variety of American women, fearlessly sharing their secrets and their love-hate relationships with the clothes in their closet.


Chris Piper said...

Girl power indeed. Well done team. An interesting montage of monologues about how the stuff we wear is intrinsically linked with our memories and experiences ( I'm speaking with my feminine side here of course I can't remember what I wore last week let alone years ago). Nicely staged and thought out but for me, the English accent section was more natural and moving. I would have liked to have seen the whole thing anglicised I think.
Good stuff though and worth spending a tenner on.

Michael Gray said...

Yes, that monologue did have an immediacy and honesty which might have been lost to a transatlantic accent. But as the AD says, it is a very American piece, and much of the language, and some of the references, would have to be changed, Right decision, I think.

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