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Grumpy Old Women Live 2 - Chin Up Britain: The Grumpies Fight Back (tour – St Albans)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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It's not so much of a case of women answering back and women talking to women about women. Oh yes, and about men as well. Grumpy Old Women Live 2: Chin Up Britain uses a framing device suggestive of the Second World War and women's varied roles in it to explore female fantasies and growses. It's scripted, by Jenny Eclair and Judith Holder, though it comes over as a slightly anarchic improvisation on a laundry basket of themes.

Eclair, Susie Blake and Wendi Peters are the performers, with the (largely female0 audience on their side from the moment they march onto Susannah Henry's set, a kitchen clutter which yields some unexpected and always interesting props. The miscellany of targets provoke wry applause – whether it's the way in which men never clear up their own mess in the kitchen, or the demise of old-fashioned courtesies, the trauma of supermarket expeditions (with or without male participation), or the overflow of Christmas into the preceding and subsequent months.

Owen Lewis' direction never lets the comedy flag; there's a good contrast between the three actors and each in turn steps back from the limelight to allow each other to sparkle in a solo turn. I especially enjoyed the skipping rope routine (Eclair is an expert in cajoling the audience into the palm of her hand and keeping them there), the canter through the agonies and possible side benefits of the menopause and of special diets, the Grumpometer rating sequence and the idea that a disco event in your own kitchen with your own choice of wine and of music can be infinitely preferable to one on someone else's premises. Especially if your heels are fashionably high.

"Glad to be grey" is the slogan to which we are urged to subscribe. Judging by the packed audience at the St Albans performance, those for whom such a silver sprinkling is still several decades away can be made to accept that time isn't all on the side of the very young. Some of them might even be encouraged to grow up and grow old gracefully.


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