Her Majesty’s Theatre. 14 Aug 2012

‘Biddies’ is the (for want of a better word) sequel to playwright Don Reid’s 2008 comedy ‘Codgers’, but it feels a far cry from that production, and excluding some basic thematic links bears no resemblance to its predecessor whatsoever.

No doubt expected to sell on its name alone the theatre still barely reached half capacity on opening night, with a crowd of around 400 filling the centre of the stalls and front rows of Her Majesty’s Theatre balcony only – perhaps the word got out? The script really isn’t up to scratch, and despite one of the characters telling another not to live their life like a “soap opera”, this script plays out like one.

The play uses a tried and tested script writing format but is awfully predictable most of the time. After Reid establishes the ‘Biddies old-school needle point group’ and reveals the turmoil and conflict between his characters he locks the women in the room and shuts off the power. One would now expect the characterisations and their stories to get really juicy – but Reid lets them off the hook all too soon.

The 5 women share a common frustration with the love (or lack thereof) in their lives, as it is manifested in their husbands – alive and deceased – or in the many lovers they might have had over the years. Their initial stubbornness is slowly broken down throughout the play and eventually each has their opportunity to open up and confront their demons. Although the play does tackle some tough issues, it still feels relatively predictable and the cast have to work very hard to execute Reid’s humour throughout.

The actresses themselves were individually quite wonderful. Annie Byron’s performance of the rather ditsy ‘Beryl’ is joyful to watch and Golden Girl Maggie Blinco is a real stalwart as the spinster of the group, ‘Agnes’, ever staunch in her former WOOF ways… or is that WAF? Linden Wilkinson plays the bladder beaten ‘Jess’, running in and out to the toilet at the mere mention of a splash, and Julie Hudspeth gives ‘Ruth’ a real uptight and quite resilient characterisation (but is it all an act?) Donna Lee rounds out the 5 friends playing ‘Connie’, desperately unable to let go of her youth and childhood dreams of being an actress. The cast is completed by Vivienne Garrett who plays the girls’ former teacher and ever so bossy, Miss Cantwell. Garrett does well in convincing us she is a woman of great age despite revealing, in the curtain call, that she is a much younger actress with a great wig and hat.

There were a few key points near the end where it felt as though the show could have ended, but didn’t. This gave that awful feeling that Reid had dragged the show to its conclusion – perhaps one less dance number might have done it, but sadly the overall impression was that of 6 immensely talented actresses trying desperately to act over the holes of an under-developed piece of writing.

Paul Rodda

When: 14 – 18 Aug 2012
Where: Her Majesty’s Theatre