I Want That Hair
York Theatre Royal Studio
I Want That Hair is set in a fading northern hairdresser's and explores the lives and friendship of the two women who work there.
Ex-punk and university educated owner Bex (Sherry Baines) is now 'fat and forty five' and unfulfilled in her role as the hairdressing wife of a showy corporate businessman. Her salt-of-the-earth, Geordie employee Heidi (Jackie Lye) tells it how it is, and although seemingly always good for a laugh, displays hidden depths towards the end of the play.
As the more upmarket salon across the road poaches Bex and Heidi's client base with added extras (pine nuts, head massages and bum rubs), the two women fill their increasingly empty salon with gossip, chit chat and raucous self-deprecating humour.
Baines captures Bex's flat and somewhat listless qualities well, but as the character declines into the pit of self-indulgent chocolate-munching despair, Baines struggles to hold the audience's level of sympathy she earned so effortlessly in the first half of the play. Lye brings a vibrant energy to the role of Heidi and her fantastic comic timing gives credit to the wealth of one liners that make this character very funny and very endearing.
Lydia Denno's set boxes in the two actors within the bricks and mortar of the hairdressing building, and while this overbearing design does limit the sightlines and emotional involvement for some sections of the audience, it does highlight Bex's feelings of entrapment. Viewing the play through the walls of the premises in such a voyeuristic manner works well with the conversational tone of the piece. Denno's costumes successfully express the essence of each character, helping to draw attention to the difference between the worlds the two women inhabit.
Originally commissioned for the Hull Truck Theatre, I Want That Hair provides a convincing and well observed insight into the hairdressing world. But while Thornton portrays her characters with a high level of warmth and honesty, the writing, in places, becomes hard to follow as it relies heavily on constant reports of off-stage action.
John Godber's direction is, as you would expect, precise and specific. The actors rise to the challenge of styling hair on stage well and it rarely detracts from the action. Music helps to indicate passage of time and all the tracks played in the salon clearly hold significance for the two characters, harking back to the more youthful versions of themselves that they fear are slipping further and further away.
If you are a person who rushes to the salon at the first sign of split ends and relishes your time there, then you will, no doubt, thoroughly enjoy this play. If a trip to the hairdresser's stirs feelings of dread at the thought of being asked where you are going on your holidays this year, then perhaps it might not be the ideal show for you, although you might find yourself laughing along in spite of yourself.
Reviewer: Hannah Davies