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.