The Book Club at the King’s Head Theatre
If you do not belong to the target demographic of The Book Club, be it in your interest to avoid it. The overwhelming sensation of estrangement will become demonstrably apparent in this excruciatingly middle-class/middle-age experience.
In a story of domestic ennui, Amanda Muggleton plays Deborah Martin, a wife and mother whose husband shows little concern and whose children have spread their wings from home. She fills her vacant time at an all-female book club to discuss classics and fuel her yearning for gossip and fantasy. Muggleton addresses theatregoers directly as the recipients of her gossip tales and speculations, and this is essentially the play. The concerns are therefore parochial and insular, though relatable to plenty of the spectators undoubtedly. Unfortunately, the show panders to its demographic at every conceivable moment: every character is a lazily conceived caricature and regressive gender stereotypes are celebrated as something that just is. All men like sport, all women like cleaning, all Europeans like sex, and so on and so forth. Even the cultural references are egregiously obvious – Fifty Shades of Grey, Benedict Cumberbatch. All of this is in the service of comedy, and to objectively critique the success of its humour isn’t too difficult for something so specific to its target audience as this: viewers were quite clearly identifying with the story and barking their heads off.
Amanda Muggleton, much to her credit, delivers a powerhouse one-woman show; her energy alone, as she prances around the stage and runs on a treadmill in the service of physical slapstick, is impressive to watch. She also successfully ventures from script when building an interactive rapport with her audience, inviting them to play along in the fiction. This gives the show a nice folk art performance vibe, especially when the stage is so intimate. While many found her antic displays of boorish and ribald behaviour positively outrageous, to those who were slightly less conservative, this merely accentuated the lack of witty and inventive dialogue or storytelling.
There is a banality to the drama and its lack of ambition. When one wine-drinking audience member’s eccentric and bizarre laugh becomes the most reliable source of amusement throughout the performance, there is something lacking on stage.
The Book Club is at The King’s Head Theatre from 11th October until 5th November 2016, for further information or to book visit here.