Jenny Eclair and Julie Balloo's morality tale, directed by Chris George, is a blackly comic take on Andy Warhol's “15 minutes of fame” for the reality-TV generation. It asks the pertinent question, “What happens when your time is up?”
The play's examination of the corrupting effects of our obsession with celebrity may not go very deep, but it certainly makes compelling dramatic sense of this topical issue, as we see one woman get more than she bargained for but less than she expected.
Eclair plays Carol Fletcher, a 44-year-old mother of two and wife to a carpet-fitter, whose run-of the-mill life is turned upside down when she unexpectedly becomes the star of a docu-soap on the northern-town market where she works. As flavour of the month, she appears on Richard and Judy, opens supermarkets and launches her own fitness video. Her dreams of “diamonds, minks and furs” seem to be coming true.
However, while Carol is loving all the attention, her family now gets very little from her – she may be handing out awards to Good Mums at a glitzy ceremony in a West End hotel but she hardly ever sees her own kids. After a barman sells the story of their one-night stand to the tabloids, she loses her endorsement deals and her family's trust, and ends up working as a care assistant and living at her mum's – she's made her bed and now she must lie in it, even if it's a single one that reminds her of a “coffin”.
Eclair is well suited to the role of spiky, foul-mouthed, in-yer-face Carol, borrowing from her stand-up persona (and maybe Big Brother's Jade) while refusing the temptation to try and make her too likeable. There are a number of pithy one-liners but the mood darkens as Carol discovers that her childhood idol Renee Marguerite, “Showgirl Extraordinaire”, is extraordinary in an unexpected sense. Even the melodramatic ending has a certain logic as Carol's plight comes to resemble Gloria Swanson's downward spiral in Sunset Boulevard.
- Neil Dowden (reviewed at London’s Riverside Studios)