Blueprint Theatre Company
Old Red Lion Theatre, London
There’s a certain kind of silence. That one where you’ve said everything you can possible think to say, and so has the other person you’re supposed to be talking to. It’s awkward and panicked, then you hear a terrible sound: the sound of someone else having fun. It’s that much worse when it’s two husbands failing to talk and the sound is their wives’ high-pitched laughter.
Women Laughing is about how the heck are we meant to just get along with all this neurosis getting in the way. So it’s not a totally fun ride: it starts out with a back-stiffeningly awkward conversation between two husbands who have no idea what to say but are going to spend the afternoon together as a social call.
Things become less polite but no less strained when they are joined in the garden by the wives who had been laughing in the background. And what where they laughing about? The fact that both men are in therapy! Badum bum tish.
This sounds all grey and miserable, a depression fest, but actually the night bounces along. Mark Rose and Mark Sands are excellent, Rose alight with barely contained rage and Sands full of prim shyness and self-denial. In fact, the whole cast is incredible, with fantastic chemistry. Mark Rose and Sally Rose in particular seem genuinely in love, a rare thing to see on stage.
Michael Wall's text manages to nail how downright funny awkward conversations are, while pulling off the difficult balance of laughing at its characters without being cruel to them. So while there’s some tough questioning going on here, a stripping away of what lies behind social niceties, it’s never trite, never dull.
The second half, added for stage, is less tight than the first, but allows for some meaty development of what had been shown before. While the first half is about an afternoon tea in Ealing, the second is set in a mental hospital. It’s a denser, tense atmosphere, with fewer laughs and more depth. It drags a bit, with some scenes feeling unneeded, but it gives a needed reality to what was implied before.
Women Laughing is bold, brash and subtle with an electric cast and a hilarious and desperate script. This stunning production by the Blueprint Theatre Company will make you laugh and think about why you're laughing. Very much recommended.
Reviewer: Tobias Chapple