Review: Bad Aunts, at Camden People’s Theatre
01 August, 2019 — By Clair Chapwell
AT a packed out Camden People’s Theatre there’s a sensational vibe, the place buzzing with expectation as the cast of three, Dee (Penelope McDonald), Maz (Denise Stephenson) and Jo (Vivienne Soan) bounce onstage.
“Hello Camden! Turn to the person next to you and say ‘hello.’”
“Turn to the person next to you and ask what their favourite durable material is.”
“Lycra!” grins a man down the front.
This is good. This is fun and unexpected. We’re introduced to each of the three women of a certain age, all of whom have complicated lives, living together, rubbing one another up the wrong way: Dee, the dramatically dreadful songwriter forever on about her chakras who leaves her vibrator in unfortunate places (the teapot). Widow Jo, doubly obsessed with aubergines and the postman with whom she has fallen in love and Maz, the buttoned-up headteacher about to divorce her wife, with an incommunicado teenage daughter.
Suddenly we’re confused: is this a cheeky three-woman standup or a navel-gazing sitcom? And therein lies the problem with Bad Aunts.
These skilled performers have some truly show-stopping moments. But director Eloise Poulton and associate director Elinor Lipman, also the co-writers, have two shows in two different styles constantly at war. The unresolved personal stories are layered uncomfortably with chat show-type set pieces – “How Bad Are You?” Audience members are invited to tell us bad things they have done and are scored on a dial, The winner gets a mug.
It didn’t work for me. But maybe it’s because I didn’t win the mug.
Bad Aunts will be performed at the Old Tolbooth Market, August 1.