THE SPEED TWINS
by Maureen Chadwick.
Riverside Studios (Studio 3) 1 Crisp Road W6 9RL To 28 September 2013.
Tue–Sat 7.45pm Sunday 5pm Mat Thu & Sat 3pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS:0208 237 1111.
Review: William Russell 3 September.
Fine gateway to the truth.
The action of Maureen Chadwick’s splendid play takes place in what appears to be celebrated London Lesbian club, The Gateways. Closed in 1985, it was a home from home to women who loved women for decades when they were outcasts from society.
Old Queenie, dolled-up in a 1960s beauty queen’s gown, stands amazed, wondering why she is there. Slumped at the bar is Ollie, short, plump and plain, dressed as Oliver Hardy, the fancy dress made famous by Beryl Reid in the film The Killing of Sister George (partly filmed in the club). But things are not what they seem. The pair are in some kind of limbo, a gateway to eternity.
They bicker as Queenie refuses to admit her predicament, and Ollie makes the best of it. They are interrupted by Shirley, young and beautiful, once Queenie’s lover – they used to ride a motor-bike as the Speed Twins when young and Shirley has a leg in a calliper from an accident caused by Queenie.
Chadwick comes up with a series of surprises as the bitter, guilt-infused Catholic Queenie comes to terms with her past as a Lesbian who married and had a child, as did Shirley.
The play, funny, moving, and beautifully performed, is directed with great style by Simon Evans. Amanda Boxer, as the tough but deep-down vulnerable Ollie gets the best jokes, including glorious scabrous memories of making it with Princess Margaret who, it seems, was not merely a swinger in her time but swung both ways.
Polly Hemingway is very impressive as the tortured Queenie, slowly discovering the ability to be true to herself and to the woman she loved, while Mia Mackie makes the gorgeous Shirley more than just a lipstick Lesbian love object, but someone equally at odds with the lifestyle society has imposed upon her.
One cannot escape the fact that the protagonists are Lesbians and Chadwick has some serious social points to make, but the play is more universal than that. It is also about someone coming to terms with the past and perhaps before it is too late making amends.
Queenie: Polly Hemingway.
Ollie/Nurse: Amanda Boxer.
Shirley/Angelica: Mia Mackie.
Director: Simon Evans.
Designer: Andrew D Edwards.
Lighting: Johanna Town.
Sound: Ed Lewis.