Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Hot Flush

Book by Julie Benson, music and lyrics by Olly Ashmore
Theatre Royal, Newcastle, and touring
(2007)

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Hot Flush can basically be summed up as a musical about women making a song and dance about the menopause.

I'm too young to know what all the fuss is about, but if last night's audience was anything to go by - a sell-out of mainly women of a certain age, and a few brave men - then, this is one hot topic. It's a little along the lines of the Grumpy Old Women and Vagina Monologues format, and feels at times like a female bonding session.

It tells the tales of our menopausal four ladies - all members of the Hot Flush Club - in a funny, brash, at times risqué, way. So we have all the crabbiness, mood swings and physical symptoms associated with the menopause or 'the change', alongside that most traditional of sports, doing down the men in their lives of course.

But it's not all doom and gloom. On the contrary, it's slick and funny, with some catchy tunes, and a fabulous line-up in the shape of Rula Lenska, Sheila Ferguson, Marti Webb and Rachel Izen.

Sam Kane plays the token man brilliantly, donning a variety of costumes and playing everything from an 18-year-old hunk, to beleaguered husband, security guard and barman.

He carries it all off with a knowing twinkle in his eye. And anyway, he has his revenge in the second half, when he lets rips in a song with a mini-tirade against hormonal women.

Our strong and talented ladies are a revelation - each and every one can hold their own, and handle the gamut of emotions, from poignant scenes to belting out the big songs.

Sultry Rula Lenska plays Myra, a barrister, who drinks and smokes a bit too much, and whose 'rat' of a husband has left her for a young blonde bimbo. With a knock-out pair of pins, Rula has worn the years very well, and that husky voice of hers encapsulates Myra to a T.

Three Degrees sensation Sheila Ferguson plays Sylvia, married to Joe since she was 20 and bored with him from the age of 21. She's having a secret affair with Myra's 18-year-old son. Keeping up? Sheila steals her scenes with that big trademark voice of hers, and unsurprisingly has an equally big stage presence to match.

Musical diva Marti Webb plays mumsy widow Helen, and boy, can her voice still reach every corner of the theatre! West End stalwart Rachel Izen, a funny all-rounder, plays Jessica, whose husband has spent the last few months in the potting shed.

It's not all man-baiting though, thankfully, as that would get a tad boring. And by the end of the second half, the women do concede the men in their lives aren't all that bad.

The strong cast undoubtedly makes this show - the subject matter might not be everyone's cup of herbal tea, but the talented line-up of actors and singers will certainly draw the crowds. And besides, it makes a change.

Sheila Connor reviewed this production at Woking.

Reviewer: Katharine Capocci