Caroline O’Connor is known to the British theatre audience as a star of musical theatre, having appeared in such West End Productions as: ‘Me And My Girl’; ‘Cabaret”; and “Mack and Mabel’. However, with her one-woman show ‘Bombshells’, we discover that she is a consummate all round entertainer, whose skills include not just singing and dancing, but also acting.
The show consists of six 20-minute portraits of women, who despite their public attempts to appear in control, are each in a state of crisis. To each of these women O’Connor brings a depth of meaning, expressing their loneliness and yet capturing every ounce of comic irony.
The show opens with Meryl, the frenzied mother who struggles to cope with rearing three children and suffers from pangs of anxiety in her belief that she is failing her children. O’ Connor throws herself about the stage in a burst of harried energy, rushing from one motherly task to the next, never quite having the time to complete anyone of them. With words tumbling out of her mouth in a verbal avalanche, O’Connor captures the pressure of a mother who believes it is her responsibility to be perfect.
Then there is the unfortunate Tiggy, who in giving a lecture on why Cacti are wonderful plants is unable to contain the bitterness she feels towards her ex-husband, and finally Mary the teenager who enters a talent contest, only to discover that she has to change her act at the last moment, leading to a bizarrely improvised but hilarious dance routine.
The second act is by far superior to the first. Here we meet Theresa, the bride who on her wedding day is beginning to have second doubts. O’Connor moves from excitement to apprehension with ease as she hilariously goes through all the reasons why she should and should not get married.
Then there is Winsome, the widow who tells us of her daily routines of meeting with her widowed friends for different social occasions. It is while going about her widowed routine that Winsome is surprised to discover that the joy of sex has not completely passed her by. And finally, we meet Zoe the ageing concert star who is making what will surely be her final comeback tour as she totters around the stage in a drunken stupor, unintentionally informing us of the many tragedies in her life.
Caroline O’Connor is a true entertainer, she captures the pathos and humour of each of her characters, her eyes twinkle with merriment, her voice full of candour. In the humorous sketches she still captures the desperation of her characters, and in those sketches marked by more palpable pathos, her voice still carries the slightest quiver of laughter.
Playwright Joanna Murray-Smith has created an interesting collection of women, each trying to muddle through life. With the exception of widow Winsome, none of these characters have any particular depth to them, and each is quickly forgotten. However, they all provide the perfect material for O’Connor to entertain. My only complaint is with the frenzied sketches that could be shortened, I quickly began to tire of Meryl’s constant state of panic and Mary’s frantic dance movements.
However, there is one sketch that is carefully crafted and that is the story of widow Winsome, this little gem of a portrayal of loneliness, makes the evening worthwhile in itself.
Caroline O’Connor is pure entertainment, and although the material she has to work with is far from consistent in it’s quality, it provides O’Connor the opportunity to display her considerable talent.
What other critics had to say.....
JEREMY KINGSTON for THE TIMES says, "variety gives a lively cohesion to the evening, whether the subject is sorrow, joy or the absurdity of life." ALASTAIR MACAULAY for THE FINANCIAL TIMES says, "Reeking of cynicism and sentimentality...playwright Joanna Murray-Smith...has done better work "