(Seen at the preview performance on 27th January 2015)
The lives of women in the 1980s seems to be a theme in the West End at the
moment. “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” explores the surreal, and
doesn’t do it badly at all... but Amelia Bullmore can certainly teach Pedro
Amodovar a thing or hundred about what it is to be a woman, and female
This is an unmissable evening of theatre.
Bullmore has written three deep roles, and casting director Tariq Rifaat has
found the perfect actors to fill them. Di (Tamzin Outhwaite), sporty, lesbian,
not as confident as meets the eye. Rose (Jenna Russell), impulsive, man-loving,
motherly and Viv (Samantha Spiro), studious, asexual and ambitious all convince,
their special bond the unique binding of the evening.
From university and through life afterwards, Bullmore traces how these
unlikely friends relationships change. The attention to detail is minute, each
situation rings true, each resolution truer, and the final brief scene is a
If the writing in act one sometimes seems hurried, it’s excused for the
rewards reaped in the second half. To tell more about the plot would destroy the
impact for anyone who is lucky enough to obtain a ticket. Suffice to say that it
never goes where the writing might hint, and any writer able to extract a
genuine gasp from the entire audience has something special, as the cast make
even the least perfect moments tell.
The acting honours are divided so evenly that it’s impossible to single any
of the three out. Each has a moment to shine, and uses it to the full, but as an
ensemble the chemistry is unbeatable.
Director Anna Mackmin ensures that everything happens for a reason. The lulls
in action quite deliberately timed to allow digestion before the next scene
A nod to designer Paul Wills too, for an authentic 80s set in act one and a
versatile space in act two, and Oliver Fenwick for atmospheric lighting. Oh, and
whoever chose the music deserves a mention as well.
As a study of modern women, as a piece of writing and a work of theatre, this
delivers on every level. Just see it.