Singular Women

Stewart Permutt
King's Head Theatre
(2003)

These four twenty-minute monologues show that Stewart Permutt hankers after a career as a Jewish Alan Bennett! The structure and style are greatly reminiscent of Bennett's classic Talking Heads.

In front of Tim Shortall's elaborate modern set, Lesley Joseph, famed for her nine years as Dorien in Birds Of A Feather, plays four quirky, lonely women whose dark secrets slowly rise to the surface.

These bittersweet comedies reach each end of the scale between comedy and tragedy, with perhaps the most affectionate portrayal that of Mrs Cohen, Belgian chocolate sales lady extraordinaire. She will have been familiar to many members of the King's Head's North London audience, who must surely have met self-contained Jewish busybodies of this type on a regular basis.

Tragedy is most apparent in the sexually repressed schoolteacher responsible for the death of a seven year-old child that she hated. Her self-interested mortification is apparent as she resorts to a lonely life hidden behind her doll's houses.

Add to this a bitter mistress of a famous actor and a dwarf-like actress with a great right hook and you have the makings of a humorous but also sometimes poignant evening.

Miss Joseph, who also produced the play, gives four excellent cameo performances, her timing under Lawrence Till's direction immaculate and her rapport with the audience guaranteed. She also has a knack of gaining and shedding twenty years as she switches from character to character.

There is no doubt that Singular Women will be a great success with an Islington audience that will immediately recognise the types that Miss Joseph portrays. Some might even see their neighbours or themselves portrayed - although they will be unlikely to admit to the latter!

This review originally appeared on Theatreworld in a slightly different version

Reviewer: Philip Fisher