Review Round-Ups

Critics not nervous about Women on the Verge

Pedro Almodóvar’s film is brought to the stage at the Playhouse Theatre starring Tamsin Greig

Matt Trueman

… It's super-smart songwriting: all discord and layers to make your head swim. Structurally, Lane's book carries the same delirium, deploying the absurdist rhythms of a demented Dario Fo farce, but it suffers – badly – from naffness… Even Greig, who can't help but be likeable, has to mime Pepa's emotional rollercoaster with spluttered half-laughs and gulped tears. Gwynne, meanwhile, goes the whole hog, hamming it up – hilariously – as Ivan's deranged, wounded wife. You wish Sher and designer Anthony Ward had found a more sophisticated stage language. Their world changes colour, but still stays consistent and cartoonish. What's theatrical on film, though, becomes flat on stage, and there's a more disorientating, patchwork approach to be had. As it is, this musical remains on the verge of a breakthrough.

Michael Billington

…although this musical version of the movie has been radically revised since its unhappy 2010 Broadway premiere and boasts a sparky performance by Tamsin Greig, it never resolves a basic problem: how to incorporate songs without slowing down the story’s momentum… It’s all screwball fun with an undertow of rueful sadness… although David Yazbek‘s Hispanic-flavoured music and lyrics are perfectly proficient, only one song genuinely enhances the situation… the chief burden of the show falls on Greig, who captures all Pepa’s essential qualities… There is strong support from Anna Skellern… and from Seline HizliBartlett Sher‘s newly simplified staging also keeps the action moving with commendable fluency… It all makes for a perfectly pleasant show in which only the songs, in adding depth to character, put a brake on the story’s propulsion.

Paul Taylor

…it boasts a focus and intimacy felt to be sorely lacking in the over-produced original incarnation. There's a dream-like fluidity to the craziness here… The production's masterstroke is the casting of Tamsin Greig… Greig's superb timing and her matchless ability to flicker between comic absurdity and desolate melancholy and to show the perilous closeness of shaking with laughter and shivering with tears are tremendous assets for a piece that proves there's no incongruity between frenetic farce and the expression through song of the fraught emotions that fuel it… Haydn Gwynne is bliss as the bonkers Lucia… I think it's no wonder that Almodovar has given this exhilarating version his blessing.

Dominic Cavendish
Daily Telegraph

…I don’t know why I fretted. This is an absolute joy of an evening… I’d also add that thanks to a smart book by Jeffrey Lane and taut direction from Bartlett Sher, the gag-count is much higher than in the 1988 film. Here, from the start, there’s movement, fluidity, unpredictable vitality… Making an impressive musical debut, Tamsin Greig plays the leading role of the suddenly dumped TV actress Pepa… Hadyn Gwynne is little short of hilarious as the latter’s tall, long abandoned wife… There’s fantastic work too from Anna Skellern as Candela… David Yazbek’s warm, Latin American-flavoured music and lyrics sometimes incline to the generic, the words a paella of yesterday’s left-over sentiments but the way it’s all served up, you don’t especially notice… this is a real Madrid tonic.

Quentin Letts
Daily Mail

…this inventive new version of Pedro Almodovar’s 1988 classic film is a stylish hoot – a fiesta of PMT with monstrous, ticklish caricatures and, ultimately, a heart very much in the right place… Miss Greig singing. This is her first stab at musical theatre. It is an odd voice: clear, quite deep, at times comparable to a clarinet, though not always in time with the excellent band pumping out jazzy latin numbers. Does it matter that the star of the show is no Elaine Paige? Not really… David Yazbek’s music and lyrics find a lovely balance of breezy romance. Anthony Ward’s other-worldly set is lit with surreal candy colours. Tamsin Greig‘s… stage presence proves irresistible… in the end it becomes a cheerful, life-affirming lament about sisterly solidarity in the face of rotten, beastly men. Magnifico!

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown is running at the Playhouse Theatre