Anyone who has seen a Brad Fraser before expects to be shocked, but there is always a underlying sense of humanity running throughout his productions. 5@50 is no different, but it is a departure because as the man himself says, it is "probably the biggest step from my comfort zone that I've ever taken because it's five women, because they're all filthy, because it doesn't have any graphic nudity or sex on the stage." Luckily for fans of his edgy writing, this is far from 'Disney' Brad though.
The five women of the title have been friends since High School and they share their happy times, pain, heartbreak and comedic encounters. But, unlike the once brave depictions of Carrie Bradshaw and Co which have rapidly gone downhill since the awful movie Sex and The City 2, these women do not sit talking about Jimmy Choos and men called Big. Instead, they lead messy lives and feel more rooted in reality.
The five gifted actresses playing these fractured friends revel in Fraser's wickedly funny dialogue. "Middle age; an endless parade of 'what the fuck!'" says Ingrid Lacey's Tricia Woodcock in one of many priceless lines. Priceless, because there is so much truth behind the acerbic wit.
Norma (Teresa Banham) and Olivia (Jan Ravens) are partners and they both fear that the end could be nigh. So Norma almost seems to enjoy the fact that her other half is drinking heavily because as a pediatrcian, she is then able to attempt to gain some control, in one scene literally puring the drink down her addict lover's throat. This could be clumsy but Brad paints this as totally realistic as Norma is scared of losing Olivia to her A.A friends.
Likewise, Barbara Barnes' Fern is a Yoga-loving mother and wife, but there is far more to her than we see on the surface. Lorene (Candida Cubbins) is crudely funny, yet again masking so much pain and lastly the outwardly stoic Tricia (Lacey) has her own fears for the future.
Director Braham Murray and Brad Fraser make an interesting double act as they compliment each other perfectly. Murray injects pace to the proceedings and Fraser seems to have written a piece which suits the unforgiving Round space of the Royal Exchange, as the characters' lives develop in a cyclic fashion.
There are times when some scenes do roll into one, as parties are used as plot devices for drama to ensue. This is fine to begin with, but there are only so many times you watch a character leave a party because things get too heated. I, personally would rather these women stayed to fight it out ala Who's Afraid Of Virgina Woolf or Abigail's Party.
Although not as subversive or as sexy as True Love Lies, 5@50 does bite hard and gives five brilliant acresses the opportunity to kick Loose Women stereotypes into touch and also proves that the still daring and laugh-out-loud funny writer Brad Fraser has not lost his golden touch.