Pros: The brilliant, irrepressible Amanda Muggleton making light of a demanding script.
Cons: The empty nest syndrome is an over-used storyline that feels a tad predictable at times.
I well remember Amanda Muggleton in 1980s Aussie drama Prisoner Cell Block H. But live on stage in a one woman show? Would I be sold? Settling into the fabulously cool King’s Head Theatre to watch The Book Club I pondered this, and then left the question hanging as I watched this thoroughly entertaining one act monologue.
The Book Club tells the story of Deborah Martin, a mature woman that has reached a crossroads; her daughters are grown up and living their own lives, whilst husband Wally remains her affectionate but neglectful husband. Where does Deborah focus her energies with an empty nest and a Wally for a husband? She soon finds solace in the book club, a monthly meeting where like-minded women meet to discuss a nominated book and have a good old fashioned gossip.
Amanda moves around the set using every prop she can get her hands on; the inevitable bookcase, a ladder for reaching the top shelf, sofa and treadmill are utilised to great effect as she describes the quirky characters inhabiting the book club. As Trish, Millie, Caroline, Steffi and Meredith each take the figurative spotlight Amanda brings them alive with a great mix of dialects and mannerisms. You have no doubt who’s who as you learn something about their personalities; whether it be Caroline’s endless maternity requirements, the snobby Meredith or vampish Steffi. Amanda took the audience into her confidence and made everyone feel like her friend. Everyone leaned forward whenever the words “do you know what she said to me?!” were uttered. It’s a rare skill to deliver a performance and establish intimacy with the audience, but it seemed like second nature to Amanda.
The story took a juicier turn when Deborah described how she met her favourite author Michael Gordon. She invited him to speak at the book club one day and he said yes! The scenario that followed that first meeting was relatively easy to predict. But in spite of the obvious plot turn it was an incredibly perceptive script, drawing out the frustrations of a woman whose homemaking years have finally come to an end. It was wonderfully executed by Amanda Muggleton, who was word perfect throughout a 90 minute performance packed with dialogue. She was good…very good. An absolute treat!
Writer: Roger Hall
Director: Nadia Tass
Associate Producer: Tiffany Noack
Booking Until: 5 November 2016
Box Office: 0207 226 8561
Booking Link: https://kingsheadtheatre.ticketsolve.com/#/shows/873555710/events/127872818