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Tuesday at Tescos

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Tuesday at Tescos, adapted from the French hit Le Mardi a Monoprix, is yet another solo show for Simon Callow - and yet another festival hit - this time playing a middle-aged transvestite, Pauline, who visits and shops for his/her geriatric father once a week.

Bearing a curious resemblance to both Helen Mirren and Juliet Stevenson in his lank blond wig, beige suit and high heels, Callow provides a sort of suburban tour de force that shields a defiant plea for tolerance.

Every now and then he erupts into a little dance – accompanied on the umpteenth “treated” piano of this festival by Ten Plagues composer Conor Mitchell – but is careful not to turn this into a cabaret turn. The execution is deliberately, and slightly, off-key, somehow sad and self-delusory.

Having got over the usual problem with this kind of play – why is this person telling us this; why, indeed, is he talking to us at all? – we concentrate on both a touching story and the underpinning social tragedy of caring for ageing parents. Life is drained on both sides.

Emmanuel Darley’s 2009 Paris hit has been rendered in English by Matthew Hurt and Sarah Vermande, and niftily directed by Simon Stokes on a design by Robin Don which encircles Callow in a huge tilted neon-lit hoola-hoop in front of a Godot tree and a suspended little pink dress.

Callow’s ending is too sad for words, and he takes us there with unadorned stoicism. He even rescues the dread phrase “I am what I am” from La Cage aux Folles, adding a whole new dimension to the concept of sex and shopping.


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