What Would Helen Mirren Do?
No, not get her knockers out.
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Neither would she be working on the checkouts in an Oldham supermarket I would imagine. But that’s where we find our main character of this hilarious, realistic, one-woman show. Susan Butterworth, played by the fantastic Anita Parry, is a 50-something single mother of two who has been scanning dog food and bog roll through a barcode reader for the last 30 years. Recently promoted by her slimy sexist boss, Susan finds herself attending a management training course in Wigan, where instead of learning how to process customer complaints and organise a team, they discuss what kind of animal you would be and who your role model is.
And que Dame Helen Mirren. The inspirational woman who reminds Susan that there is always more to life and that it is time for a few changes. I mean who wouldn’t want a woman who has played both Queen Elizabeths as their role model? Susan discovers that life can certainly begin at 50 and sets her sights higher than she ever imagined they could be.
It is a cleverly, yet simply written comedy with many characters, all portrayed by Anita herself. Including larger-than-life Big Jean, who can always think of a complaint for everything, “Snowflake” Steve, the pervy boss with a severe dandruff issue and Susan’s grumpy old Irish mother, who bares a striking resemblance to Patty from Shameless.
It reflects the mindset of most ordinary middle-aged women who often find themselves looking at their lives and thinking: “is this it?” Unglamourous, unfabulous yet somehow brilliant, this play definitely answers the question its title poses.
Words: George Keast
Running until 25 March, Waterloo East Theatre, Brad Street, London