Duke of York Theatre | By Cathy Adams
A whitewashed, bare room, a half-drunk glass of Chardonnay and a skylight. Welcome to peripheral Walthamstow, home to put-upon mother Hilary, stolid husband Mark and precocious teen Tilly.
Tamsin Grieg, better known for her acerbic roles in Black Books and Green Wing, gives a stellar performance as 40-something mother Hilary: lover of bland chinos and two glasses of wine a night. Trapped in a bland suburban marriage, Hilary and Mark grapple with the eccentricities of dog walking, a lack of marital sex and their very own Satan frogspawn, zealously promiscuous daughter Tilly.
Tilly is 15 with a Croydon facelift and a collection of hoop earrings the diameter of satellite dishes. She clatters about in knock-off Ugg boots, cheap jersey dresses that cling to her young curves and with an accented “OH GOOOOODDDDDDD” that rings in your brain for hours afterwards. Hilary’s overtly sexualised friend Frances (Doon Mackichan of Smack The Pony fame), is a clawing, flailing reminder of lost youth; prancing about in too-small swimwear and loudly sighing “but I don’t even have a pension!”
But running underneath the commotion of North East London family life is Hilary’s inability to deal with her mid-life crisis, as she dreamily remembers her youth as a feminist activist.
Her life has lost the meaning it once had, she has lost control of her daughter and her marriage is gaping open at the seams. Grieg documents the terrifying slide into obscurity flawlessly: she openly picks crisps out of her teeth, and strains to read a text on her mobile phone.
Often laugh-out-loud funny (Frances’s “routine” is a particular treat), it’s poignantly reflective of the mundane crossroads that families, and mothers and daughters, find themselves at every day. April de Angelis’ play puts centre-stage the female mid-life crisis, and has a jolly good laugh about it.