Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

A Round Heeled Woman

Based on the true story by Jane Juska, written and directed by Jane Prowse
Aldwych Theatre
(2011)

Wellheeledaldwych

A Round Heeled Woman is based on the true story of Jane Juska, who submitted an ad in the personals of the New York Review of Books stating that before she turns sixty-seven, she “would like to have a lot of sex with a man” she likes. “If you want to talk first, Trollope works for me”.

In this transfer from Riverside Studios written and directed by Jane Prowse and starring Golden Globe winner Sharon Gless, the personal is woven with the literary. We journey through Juska’s recollection of her sexual encounters both as well as spend time with Miss Mackenzie, the protagonist of Anthony Trollope’s book with the same title - one of Juska’s favourites.

After a bitter divorce and thirty years of celibacy, Juska longs physical contact, and she takes it upon herself to be courageous and more unconventional in her pursuit of sex and her personal life than she has been in her professional career.

There’s certainly plenty of scope for theatrical play in this story, and Prowse’s narrative and direction underline the wishes that govern this sudden search for physical pleasure and bring these personal confrontations alongside the rather awkward and humorous group of men Juska ends up dating from cab drivers to married university professors. Despite its ambitions, it’s a windy production that doesn’t delve into any of the subjects it juggles. Surprisingly, this is a story that lacks the particularities that could make it interesting as opposed to simply humorous.

A Round Heeled Woman attempts to reinterpret Juska’s memories in the context of a society whose social paradigms, we’re told, still revolve around associating sex with money, yet there’s a problematic romanticisation of the experience that seems unresolved in the narrative. We spent so much time in the comfort of Juska’s home and encounter a parade of both strangers and members of her own family, but there’s never anything truly personal revealed.

Despite the rhythms of the narrative, the performance itself is flat and doesn’t construct its climax with enough energy. In addition, there are many possibilities for humour that are missed; Prowse weighs down on the obvious jokes, relying too much on the situation itself to sustain the comedy.

Sharon Gless brings elegance and life to the production, portraying Juska as a woman courageous and wise, overwhelmed by a problematic relationship with her son and not afraid of the consequences of her actions.

A Round Heeled Woman certainly holds value in its light-heartedness and naive romantics, yet it relies too heavily on the implications of the story to build its drama. It’s a production that can’t decide its own course of action, and as a result it feels contrived. It settles for a faux-naturalism that counts against the theatricality of the situation and the potential playfulness of the script.

Until 14th January

Reviewer: Diana Damian