Dirty Dusting

Ed Waugh and Trevor Wood
Customs House, South Shields
(2003)

Take a bullying supervisor, three officer cleaners over seventy, the threat of the sack, and you have the makings of a moving play about ageism. Add a telephone call that proves to be a wrong number - actually for a telephone sex line. Factor in the sense of humour of writers Ed Waugh and Trevor Wood and it suddenly becomes an hilarious comedy.

Warned in a letter from their employers that they are about to lose their jobs and subject to threats and intimidation by Dave, their supervisor, Elsie (Gwen Doran), Olive (Helen Russell) and Gladys (Jean Southern), prompted by the wrong number, decide to spend their last weekend at work running a sex chat line from their employer's office. Cue a seemingly never-ending streaming of sex jokes which are made funnier by the incongruity of being delivered by a trio of septuagenerians.

Elsie holds up a sweater she's bought for her grandson. Emblazoned across the front is fcuk. Gladys is horrified. "Oh sorry!" cries Elsie. "I forgot you were dyslexic."

Of a Gladys' long-lasting marriage: "It's hard to keep the romance going when they've lost their teeth."

And just what does that caller want to do with a hamster?

And as for the man who wants to have sex with a vacuum cleaner... Well, what can one say?

Crude? At times, yes. Filthy? Most of the time. Funny? Very definitely.

"My Billy's a simple lad with simple tastes. He likes Des O'Connor."

The cast of four - the three women, plus David Whittaker as the totally obnoxious Dave - keep the laughs coming from the opening to the closing lines. Some of the audience were weeping with laughter and guffaws a-plenty echoed round the theatre. Many rose to their feet as the cast took their curtain calls.

To the carping critic, there were some faults. A slight case of first night jitters, certainly, and I have to say that the very few serious scenes did not sit easily with the rest, but they are minor criticisms and affected the packed audience not a whit. Great drama it isn't: superb entertainment it certainly is.

The play runs until Saturday, but was sold out some time before tonight's performance. So great is the demand for tickets that it is to be revived in August. I suspect many of tonight's audience will be back then!

Dirty Dusting is part of the Customs House's annual February drama festival which showcases local writers.

Reviewer: Peter Lathan