HOT FLUSH: Benson, Theatre Royal Nottingham till 22 May (Touring)

Nottingham/Touring.

HOT FLUSH: Julie Benson.
Theatre Royal: Tkts 0115 989 5555 www.royalcentre-nottingham.co.uk.
Runs: 2h 20m: one interval: till 22nd May.
Performance times: 7.30pm.
Review: Alan Geary: 17 May 2010.

Words like “double” and “standards” kept coming to mind.
Somehow you expected Hot Flush to be a kind of Vagina Monologues – the Musical. It was – a bit. And it would be sexist to say it was a girls’ night out – it wasn’t. But it was certainly a ladies’ night out: on stage and in the auditorium, the gentlemen were an endangered species.

This was about the female menopause and its associated problems, which is fair enough. But it was also an exercise in stereotyping. Furthermore there was a sustained and not always good-natured attack on men that wouldn’t be countenanced if it were the other way round. Words like “double” and “standards” kept coming to mind.

To be fair though, it was supposed to be a musical comedy and it was indeed both of these things.

All right, the music wasn’t of the highest order, and it was often derivative, but the numbers were lively enough, and delivered with a lot of gusto. There were some funny moments despite the frequent resort to a kind of desperate crudity. Wireless pedants in their sixties will be interested to note that one of the gags – a good one actually – almost certainly originated in a circa-1955 Spike Milligan Goon Show.

Given the material, the performers were excellent. Lesley Joseph was the embittered but fanciable barrister whose hubby has dumped her for a younger woman. Hilary O’Neil was the American blonde with a toy-boy, fanciable in a downright obvious way. Anne Smith was the also fanciable widow. Ruth Keeling was the over-weight and churchy woman with a gay son.

It sounds sexist, but best of the lot was the token bloke, Matt Slack, playing all the male parts – reactionary security guard – a lot like Blakey from On the Buses – raging queen, Aussie bar-keeper, the toy-boy, etc.

There was a touch of your pantomimes about the evening. All the players, particularly Joseph and Slack, engaged heavily with an enthusiastic audience.

But for too much of the time this was a feel-good show that made you feel bad.

Myra: Lesley Joseph.
Sylvia: Hilary O’Neil.
Helen: Anne Smith.
Jessica: Ruth Keeling.
All the Men: Matt Slack.

Director: Alan Cohen.
Music and Lyrics: Olly Ashmore.
Choreographer: Roger Hannah.

2010-05-21 16:40:42

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