How to Get the Menopause and Enjoy It – Solstice Arts Centre, Navan, Co. Meath

Reviewer: Louise Tallon

Writer: Anne Gildea

Director: Paul Farren

Walking up to The Solstice Arts Centre for tonight’s performance of How to Get the Menopause and Enjoy it, in a merry procession of pairs and groups of women, I am reminded of the bicycles going ‘by in twos and threes’ on the night of a dance in the poem Inniskeen Road. Just as Patrick Kavanagh’s revellers shared in “..the half-talk code of mysteries” and..the wink-and-elbow language of delight” so too is our sisterhood of fifty-somethings united in the enigmatic vernacular of “Pausos Menos”.

We take our seats to Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive. Anne Gildea, when she appears, is a vision in “serengeti” redolent leopard print and funky trainers, bopping along to Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.

Everyone is laughing from the off. Gildea tells Conor from Skryne and Dave from Kimmage how lucky they are not to be the only man present as otherwise they would have been sacrificed at the finale. But she understands why they’re here – “you don’t have to get the menopause to suffer from it”. Strumming on her guitar, she is “going to play a little number to warm us up even though there’s great heat coming from us already”.

The gags keep coming as the Nuala’s star talks about life from menstruation to menopause as a female in Ireland. We hear how nuns at her Convent School in Tubbercurry doled out sanitary towels as big as “a baby’s mattress” with loops and belts, how amazing Lidl’s German engineered “danken panten” knickers are, how the emptying of moon cups is reminiscent of an abattoir. All the trials and tribulations of our declining assets are laid bare in the most hilarious way.

But there is more to Gildea’s story than womanhood after oestrogen. Although always humorous, references to her lopsided gait after a mastectomy and an unrealistic nipple tattoo give insight into the comedian’s harrowing journey through breast cancer. Diagnosed at an advanced stage in 2011, its impact on Gildea can’t help but inform her work and it’s a poignant thread when snippets are revealed.

The performer’s mam pops up here and there too – she’s convinced it was Padre Pio’s glove (“more of a mitten really”) that cured her daughter. Before HRT, when the Irish omerta on all things menopausal existed, women of her generation were often wrongly prescribed the likes of valium and librium, otherwise known as ‘Mother’s Little Helper’ as sung by The Rolling Stones. While Gildea presents her material with tremendous slapstick, the gentle reminder of the devastating effects these highly addictive drugs had on our mothers and grandmothers is sobering.

There is an air of solidarity and the mutual understanding of shared experience between Gildea and the audience. It feels like a cathartic night out with an especially funny and entertaining friend. Wishing us Godspeed on our broomsticks, the comedian, a published author, urges us to “carpe diem” and quotes T.S. Eliot –

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

Singing us out to Forever and Ever in a side-splitting parody of Demis Roussos, her voice worthy of a West End musical, you can’t help thinking – if life throws you menopause, laughter with Anne Gildea really is the best medicine.

Reviewed 10th May 2024.

The Review's Hub Score

Side-splittingly funny

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The Reviews Hub - Ireland

The Ireland team is currently under the editorship of Laura Marriott. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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