Unidentified Item in the Bagging Area at Old Red Lion
Jenny Ogilvie plays Victoria, who discovers much to her dismay that she is menopausal. John McAndrew plays her husband, Jeremy, who barely even acknowledges her existence, being more concerned with his garden. Meanwhile, their 19-year-old son Harry, played by Andy Rush, has just left to start university, leaving Victoria alone and unneeded.
After arguing incessantly with Jeremy, she moves out of their house. She joins a menopause support group, where she meets Meg (Paddy Navin), who lives alone above a fish and chip shop and runs Mature Madams, a phone sex hotline. Meg is the “funny” character in the play, which basically means she swears a lot in a regional accent.
The title of the play is referenced when Victoria is shopping and getting increasingly frustrated at the self-service till, barking out its instructions. “Coupon! Coupon! Coupon!” it shouts, even though they never actually say this. It seems a bit picky to focus on the fact that the dialogue of the machine is wrong, but if you’re going to have a pivotal scene, which subsequently gives the play its title, featuring the well-known trope of how annoying self-service checkouts are, why not at least get it right?
In between scenes are some irritating “free theatre” segues, where characters dance around in circles, simulate sex with a toilet brush, and play with bubble guns. The only really affecting scene came at the end, where Victoria, by now restyled as “licky Vicky”and working as a Mature Madam, receives a phone call from her estranged husband, who was trying to ring the Chinese takeaway (honest!). Not realising it’s his wife, he starts to open up about their marriage, and his recent cancer diagnosis. His musings on growing old, told through a clever gardening metaphor, were insightful and full of emotion.
There are strong performances all round, particularly from Ogilvie as Victoria, who doesn’t leave the stage for the play’s two-hour duration. But there are several inexplicable scenes and characters that seem to have no place anywhere, leaving the play directionless and slightly confused.
Unidentified Item in the Bagging Area is on at Old Red Lion Theatre until 8th November 2014, for further information or to book visit here.