Pros: Great jokes and a wonderful heroine
Cons: The bits of slo-mo physical theatre don’t add much
All the action takes place in Stephanie’s small bedsit, with landlady Mrs Mitchell safely away at the pictures. A simple set of bed, chair, cabinet and hatstand takes us there although, loathe to say a word against the lovely studio at The Other Palace, I couldn’t help feeling that one of London’s smaller, dingier black box theatres might have conjured bedsitland more convincingly.
It’s an obviously excruciating situation which Dennis, dutifully following the rules of sperm donation, tries to manage by maintaining polite professional boundaries. He is foiled in this by Stephanie, whose defence mechanism is compulsive, unguarded and frequently hilarious chatter. Stephanie Booth gives an utterly delightful performance as Stephanie, capturing her gawky self-consciousness, as well as her defiant self-sufficiency (in all matters but this!) George Readshaw meanwhile, does a nice job of gradually defrosting Dennis.
Richard Bean’s dialogue is delivered at a speed that does both actors credit. At times, it’s almost too snappy to be credible, but it does pack an impressive number of laughs, and delicately paints a vivid picture of the period between the wars. There are Tudor jokes and sex jokes, late husband jokes and feminism jokes; often unexpected, but always good-natured. And running throughout, a good deal of pathos and indignation, as the misery and injustice of Stephanie’s situation become clear.
All in all, this is a very enjoyable hour in the company of two likeable characters; both recognisably of their time, but each subversive in their own way. The story is, apparently, based loosely on true events, and while it’s easy to believe that this sort of thing went on behind closed doors, it’s hard to imagine it was as funny as this.
Author: Richard Bean
Director: Katharine Farmer
Booking until: This show has now ended its run