Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown at the Playhouse
Its beginning is sublimely ridiculous, its characters coming to the edge and falling back again in an amalgam of brilliant songs: this musical production of Pedro Almodovar’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown is uproarious.
From the off, the 60s-inspired set, lighting and costumes have a remarkable impact on the mood of the audience, keeping it light and playful, despite the dark undertones that rock the script. Tamsin Greig as Pepa is delightfully neurotic, swinging wildly between the loss of love and the rest of her life. She brings extraordinary emotion to her performance through song, a leap of faith for which she should be undeniably proud. Her physicality as this character is intrinsically funny, and credit must go to the choreographer for bringing something close to slapstick to this sincere-under-the-surface adaptation.
The story goes that one man is the cause of three women’s woes, and other doomed romances orbit the outside. Love is lamented throughout, though not in a way you might expect. The standout song is Model Behaviour, which caused tears of laughter to roll down not only once face.
Purposefully over-the-top acting is the order of the day in Women on the Verge, especially so from the monumentally hysterical Hadyn Gwynne as Lucia, who has the crowd shaking the seats with their laughter. From beginning to end, what director Bartlett Sher and the excellent cast have created is a hugely entertaining piece of theatre with moments of genuine hilarity, elements of the farcical and madcap British humour overlayed perfectly on the soul of the original film.
Women on the verge are the central focus of this musical, and where it could so easily have been patronising or flippant, it is sensitive, relatable and utterly hilarious. Under the madness lie real issues, real tragedy and lifetimes of loss and wrongs. Though the second half lags slightly behind the energy of the first, its slight disjointedness adds to the charm. This musical deserves the cult status of the original film, a dark comedy that leaves you feeling at once more uplifted and more wise than you did when you walked in.
Photos: Alistair Muir/Johan Persson
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown is on at Playhouse Theatre until 9th May 2015, for further information or to book visit here.