As with a lot of my theatre experiences, it’s a show that I had very little background knowledge of; I’ve never seen the original Pedro Almodóvar film and I haven’t read any synopses or reviews. All I had to go on was my natural curiosity and positive responses from some people I know who have seen the show – as well as hearing a few weeks ago that auditioning for the workshops required actors to play, let’s say, ‘unusual’ chords on the guitar.
On entering the theatre my childlike enthusiasm for bright colours was excited by this view:
This gave me even less of an idea of what to expect!
The opening scene… Though labelling it as ‘Pepa’s dream’ did help slightly, in that it accounted for the bizarre chaos going on around Pepa (Tamsin Greig), it didn’t really feel very cohesive. Especially as the song was more about setting the scene for where the action was to take place (‘Madrid’). I know dreams aren’t exactly known for their logic, but it’s kind of important to hit the ground running in a show! Well, here, you can see for yourselves:
Anyway, from then on everything started to make more sense. The plot is wickedly funny with some very catchy & clever songs – and a wonderful cast.
My favourite song was probably ‘Model Behaviour‘: Candela’s set of messages left on Pepa’s answering machine. It was hilariously done by understudy Marianne Benedict – effortlessly portraying Candela’s rising sense of panic and getting through a ridiculous amount of costume changes in the process!
Haydn Gwynne has a surprisingly powerful voice, and puts in as powerful a performance in the role of Lucia (Ivan’s estranged wife). Ricardo Afonso is part narrator & part taxi driver – and is fantastically funny as both!
Another draw of this show was the opportunity to see the always brilliant Tamsin Greig onstage, in her musical theatre debut. And she didn’t disappoint! Of course there was never going to be a problem with her acting and comic timing, but having never heard her sing before… But there was nothing to worry about, as she has a great voice, which only added to my enjoyment of the night.
It was also very touching of her to thank us in the audience (a “beautiful audience”, to be more accurate!) for taking a chance on the show, as it is generally considered ‘riskier’ to go and see a new musical. And in return all she asked was for us to spread the word about the show! Not too difficult, eh?
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown is running at the Playhouse Theatre for another 2 weeks, until 23 May.