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The Speed Twins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Members of the cast
© Catherine Ashmore
It's crystal clear The Speed Twins creator Maureen Chadwick has worked in television. Never one to let things simmer, the dramatic moments in this play often feel like they should be seconds away from an ad-break.

Queenie is a never-liberated lesbian, estranged from her daughter and her sexuality, much to the dismay of the ever brash, openly gay Ollie. Queenie's anxieties increase as Ollie drinks the bar dry at a pub the pair end up in.

Soon, the arrival of Shirley forces Queenie to face the reality of her sexual past.

Chadwick has created a surreal world for her characters, set in the cramped Gateways pub, where they are forced to make judgements upon one another and ultimately scrutinise the kept life of Queenie. Teetering between reality and fantasy and life and death, the characters are eventually offered a magical get out card: a second turn at life.

Will the troubled Queenie choose to live again as female or return as a male? Will she stay gay or go straight?

The other-worldliness of their existence sets up big laughs, as does the constant drama-fueled babble the trio engage in. Much of the humour is instigated by the loud mouth of Amanda Boxer's Ollie, whose drunken hopelessness borrows from Beckett, but there's a speediness to the dialogue that owes Chadwick's TV past (Footballers' Wives and Bad Girls) a mention.

Although the play constantly chips at the identity crisis decorating Queenie's closet, it's only the play's final moments that offer relief and tackle identity head on, as Queenie dances on stage alone as if finally liberated as never before. She is finally safe in the security of her homosexuality - but this seemed to be the play's sole depiction of the ecstasy felt when one unloads a lifetime's frustration.

Instead of intimacy and depth, The Speed Twins focuses on lofty sass and big humour.

Chadwick's confronting of closetedness throughout spares any modern relation and feels outdated in approach - but modern or dense moral debates wouldn't suit these aging characters who lack a twenty-first century understanding of homosexual culture.

In this light, the play is more about three older women flagging up their youth than it is about three gay women flagging up their sexuality.

Chadwick looks at the dimensions which fuse to form female relationships like the ones she presents. If there is one transient theme, it's the overcoming of internal ruptures of any kind.

Aside Ollie and Shirley, Queenie is a skyscraper of social stubbornness. Her gradual enlightenment and Simon Evans' production combine to make a dialogue-heavy, laugh-heavy show - but if you're looking for a new voice on female gay identity, this isn't it.

- Adam Bloodworth