Singular Women

Stewart Permutt's last play at the Kings Head, Unsuspecting Susan, starred the inimitable Celia Imrie as a mother cut adrift by self-delusion. An echo of the same quality haunts his latest venture. Lesley Joseph, best known from TV's Birds of a Feather, tackles four separate monologues, each one united by the gulf between how each protagonist views their world and the actual reality of their situation. There's Bea who's just written an expose of life with her famous married lover and Stella who prides herself on running an indispensable chocolatier. Frances' dollshouse acts as an emotional buffer whilst Dora, gamely tap-dancing in her little flat, is unable to get acting work after a violent outburst renders her a liability. 'Most people lead lives of quiet desperation' thought the philosopher Thoreau and for these four women it seems painfully true.

What's delightful about the show is the bittersweet blend that Permutt concocts as, poised between hilarity and heartbreak, he captures the interior lives of these characters most persuasively, their foibles and fancies brought vividly to life in Joseph's excellent, well-measured performance which is a credit both to her and director Lawrence Till. Each scene, with the exception of Frances' bleak monologue, carries both humour and poignancy as the audience is drawn, conspiratorially, into the private world inhabited by these women.

(Amanda Hodges)

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