Of Course I’m Hot… I’m 50! could well have been subtitled And The Audience Is Hot Too Because There’s A Heatwave. I don’t think I’ve quite experienced seeing anyone wearing so many layers on stage in such a warm theatre since seeing the Southwark Playhouse production of Titanic, in August 2013. Back then it took some suspension of disbelief on the part of the audience, most of whom were fanning themselves, to comprehend the notion of there being an iceberg straight ahead. Here, the audience is asked to believe that someone going through the menopause, in a show with a title like this one, absolutely can’t go out without wearing several, albeit lightweight, coats.
Each coat, quelle surprise, has its own history and sentimental worth. There are no character names, though – the programme lists the cast and calls them all ‘Actor’. Not being able to identify who is whom, whether one pays any attention to the programme or not, makes the show difficult to engage with. And without headshots to put faces to names, I am hardly able to distinguish one from another beyond a reasonable doubt. So, for the record, in the order given in the programme, on stage are Caron Kehoe, Emma Lamond, Fiona White, Amy Fleming, Duncan King and Matthew Stewart.
Proceedings are reasonably easy to follow, especially given that the Nameless Six, for the most part, play multiple roles. But the central character’s story is the one that is looked at in detail, and not just the stage of life, having reached the half-century, she finds herself in now. So as not to keep the audience wondering when the show is going to get to the subject matter inferred by the show’s title, namely the menopause, the play is not in chronological order. Early on, a bizarre radio phone-in on the topic takes place. The radio station’s male presenter expresses complete ignorance, and a production assistant has somehow failed to book a single ‘expert’ (apparently the station is usually able to call on a panel of knowledgeable authorities on almost any given subject). Crassness and insensitivity are the order of the day; being flustered and under pressure is no excuse today.
Our Lady of Perpetual Perspiration (a name forced on her by yours truly), comes from a church background, and her mother continues to take the high religious ground with her well into adulthood. Rather than expressing anger towards the presenter’s tactlessness, she is more disappointed that she didn’t make it on air herself during the phone-in, having been placed on hold for so long until the talk show had moved on to another subject. The production, having used the radio show as a device to speedily reel off all sorts of menopausal symptoms, both physical and psychological, then proceeds to tell Our Lady’s story, which, given that it starts with her first period, rattles through her salient life experiences at a blistering pace: if only childbirth really were as swift and painless as it was in this show!
There’s some good character development, and two of the actors do very well at playing Our Lady’s recalcitrant children. A wide range of issues are brought to the table – Our Lady’s husband decides, quite reasonably, that with a growing family, their current property is too small. Later, Our Lady’s mother shows signs of some sort of neurological dysfunction (the word ‘dementia’ is not used in the play) when she can’t remember where she is. Far be it from me to give away how it all ends, except to say that there’s much to be said about the sort of person audiences can identify with, because, like so many of us, she is getting on with life as best she can. The show makes a good point about the relative lack of advice out there about a subject that doesn’t get much coverage despite its prevalence. An eye-opening and encouraging production.
Review by Chris Comaweng
Of Course I’m Hot… I’m 50! is a factual, no-frills look at the *whispers* menopause. One woman’s journey through the brain fog, sweat and desert of vaginal dryness is every woman’s journey. Warm, truthful and funny, this show tries to clear the brain fog of everyone – whoever you are.
6th – 8th August 2018
The Lion and Unicorn Theatre