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My Brilliant Divorce



Review by Paul Nelson

I HAVE always dreaded solo performances; the idea of locking oneself in a theatre for some hours strikes me as the depth (or height) of masochism.

My worst fears came true at My Brilliant Divorce at the Apollo. This is a play of deadly reiterated jokes that fall like lead on a tin drum.

To be fair to its star, Dawn French, I have to confess I am one of the estimated four per cent of the population who eschews television. I do not own a receiver. I therefore came to her as a virgin, so to speak, having never set eyes on her before.

She has a certain appeal, as does Victoria Wood, and in this play, as with Victoria Wood, we get a whole mass of products thrown at us. Who needs television when the products and programmes are plugged endlessly on our stages?

Talk of toilet paper, the size of a man's penis, and other intimate and repugnant details of the habits of Homo sapiens has always given me the shudders. I may be old fashioned, but there are barrack room phrases and conversations that I do not wish to hear from a female, or even in the barracks for that matter.

Not that this play is full of it, but it does skate near to the bone and that puts me into the Aunt Edna class (if any of you can remember that phrase), but I like my women to be at least pretending to be modest.

The play charts the life of a woman who is dumped by her husband for a younger woman. She dallies about the details of the divorce and tells us all about her life as a new and somewhat liberated, if now incomplete, person. During her renaissance, she experiments with answering adverts, buying dildos and toying with the idea of porno movies.

Actually, what the play is really about is growing old. Whether the author or the star know this, it is nonetheless true. The years since the split are counted on a sort of abacus.

The split was on November 5, which gives the designer a splendid time letting off fireworks every time we get to another year, and we end with Angela (Dawn French) bemoaning the fact she has grey hair, but ultimately shacking up with the man who knows her best, her GP.

If that isn't a cry for help, I have never heard one. Pity there wasn't a doctor in the house and we could have gone home earlier.

This whole event takes about 90 minutes. In the midst of a rollicking audience of delighted females, I did not laugh once. That, I think, pinpoints what is wrong with the evening. Fellas aren't all that taken with it. The man in the seat in front of me actually fell asleep, quite a feat with fireworks going off on the stage.

With a better script, Dawn French might have given us some taste of talent. As it was, she gave a distinct impression that she was appearing in a stand-up situation where the audience had left.

Miss French does not have winning ways for me, I'm afraid, though the distaff side of the audience clearly identified with her.

They raised the roof at the end of the evening, long enough for me to get to the White Horse for the best gin I've ever tasted, or needed, in London.

My Brilliant Divorce by Geraldine Aron, Directed by Garry Hynes, Designed by Francis O'Connor, Lighting Designer Jon Buswell, Sound Designer Paul Arditti, Music by Paddy Cuneen, WITH Dawn French (Angela). Presented in Association with Druid Theatre, by Michael Codron, Max Weitzenhoffer, Nica Burns for Theatreshare plc, Picter Toerien and James M Nederlander at The Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1.

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