Documental Theatre have been a company to watch for a few years now; I’ve reviewed their shows Score, Laminated and Pulling Out and I always look forward to seeing their work. Lucy Bell’s writing is poetic, sharp, layered and hard hitting. Lucy uses verbatim theatre so the audience has the opportunity to hear the voices of real people. In the case of Hot Flushes the voices come from a group of activist pensioners. Hot Flushes re-imagines the BHS pension crisis through the life of a menopausal woman who is in danger of losing her pension, her daughter and her mind.
I hadn’t been to the ‘Theatre Shop ‘ in Clevedon before. I actually enjoyed the quirkiness of the venue in the middle of a shopping centre, a large group of about 30 teenagers outside playing music and being together brought an energy of performance to the space that an empty shopping centre would be lacking otherwise.
Inside the space is very much a theatre with a bar upstairs and the atmosphere of anticipation that a first night brings. The audience, mainly an of the older generation had an excited buzz about seeing a show that speaks of an unspoken story. The show has multi-generational appeal – you do not need to have experience of the menopause to enjoy it! Although the title of the show suggests that the menopause is the focus of the story, it really is woven into the experience of the lives of the four characters as an energy force that encourages escalation and unravelling alongside the BHS pension crisis. The show definitely isn’t an education on the menopause and it definitely isn’t a show just for women but there’s lots of laughter and an opportunity to get carried away into a fantastical world of escape and desire.
This was the first performance of Hot Flushes; the show will continue to develop, voices will get stronger – personally I would be happy with a lot less information about the closure of BHS and a lot more of the escalating unravelling of murderous menopausal Sandra, played by Michelle Ridings. There were some incredibly perceptive and personally intimate moments amongst the humour plus there was Country and Western music written by Thomas Johnson and Charlie Coldfield. I was really moved by moments between mother (Michelle Ridings) and daughter (Katey Sobey) and the pain of a child leaving home; this resonates for me and the way this point was written and performed condensed so many emotions: love; pain; mis-understanding, power and control, into a scene between mother and daughter.
Katey Sobey delivers an excellent performance, both as singer, saxophone player, daughter and gun toting American. Developed from Lucy (writer) listening to recordings of women from ‘The Well-Armed Women Organisation’ who were non-violent but spoke about shooting practice as a kind of feminism – there was a character that empowered Sandra in the most unusual way. I enjoyed this exchange, which takes women of a certain age out of the role of victim and places Sandra into a whole new mindset – is it an adventure too far? You’ll need to come and see the play at The Wardrobe Theatre to find that out…
Unusually there were some moments of fantastical surrealism and comedy and I’m looking forward to these moments growing and owning the stage.
A dysfunctional love story about the roller coaster hormonal journey of murderous menopause and remembering what home means – told with Country and Western music, dark comedy, moments of perceptive tenderness and surrealism.
Interview with the writer and director here.
See what else is showing at Theatre Shop, Clevedon
Catch Hot Flushes at The Wardrobe Theatre, 6-8 June