Writer: Maggie Fox and Sue Ryding
Music: Tayo Akinbode
Director: Gwedna Hughes
Reviewer: Ruth Jepson
Vintage: It’s starting to look a little old…
So begins the eponymous Doreen Gray’s descent into comedy madness in this hilarious show about how the media seems to think that women over 50 are only suitable for the scrapheap (just think about how Miriam O’Reilly was treated when she got too old for Countryfile). Doreen hosts a radio and TV show about vintage cars, but is unceremoniously fired during her high school reunion (everyone finds out over a live Twitter feedwhile the reunion is being filmed). She flees the cameras and comes across her old self-portrait from her A Levels, and thus a modernised retelling of The Picture of Dorian Gray commences.
LipService is the brainchild of Doreen Gray performers Maggie Fox and Sue Ryding, who have been writing and performing since 1985. They have written 18 original comedies for the stage, had their own series on Radio 4 which was nominated for a Writer’s Guild Award, and they have twice won the Critics’ Award for Comedy at the Edinburgh Festival. And it shows. The comedic rapport on stage is electrifying, and clearly the result of two performers who know each other inside out. If anyone ever tells you that women aren’t funny, point them towards Fox and Ryding!
The comedy often references Enid Blyton and comfortable shoes; however this doesn’t mean that it does not appeal to a wide range of ages and the jokes are pitched perfectly. Although Fox plays the titular role, it is the multicast Ryding that steals the show with her variety of characters – the ditzy teenage radio assistant, the aged headmistress, the frog obsessive – all caricatured brilliantly.
The actors are assisted in their storytelling by a fabulously simple but effective set from Foxton, including a hefty amount of prerecorded film which Fox and Ryding interact with, live. Immensely hard to do well, they pull it off without a hitch. Everything about the projection and the constantly moving and changing set is slick and professional.
Overall, The Picture of Doreen Gray is a deceptively clever and heartwarming look at ladies over fifty, with an ultimately uplifting message about accepting yourself and growing old gracefully, while still proving you are not over the hill. May LipService still be proving this point for many years to come.
Runs until 26 February 2016 | Image: Contributed