9 to 5 – Edinburgh Playhouse

Music & Lyrics by Dolly Parton

Book by Patricia Resnick

Directed by Jeff Calhoun

Let’s just get something straight: too few of us actually enjoy our jobs. Certainly not those early mornings, hiding in the bathroom to play on our phones, avoiding awkward co-workers and superfluous bosses who seem to have obtained their status by what little they have hiding in their trousers. Well, we’ve had enough, you’ve had enough, and sensational matriarch of Country Dolly Parton, has had enough.

Adapted from the 1980 film of the same name, Patricia Resnick’s 9 to 5 sees a trio of women living out their careers under the thumb of a lazy, sexist CEO as they seem to be doing all of the real work. Divorced, widowed and misunderstood Judy, Violet and Doraleen become a force to reckon after ‘accidentally’ poisoning, hogtying and temporarily removing their boss from the picture. To the score and lyrics of Parton, this touring production seeks to revitalise all us weary workers with a dose of energy. 

A vastly capable deputy, with Louise Redknapp unwell, Laura Tyrer takes on the reigns for the confident, but vastly underappreciated Violet Newstead, who like one may suspect, is running the company in the absence of any real input from CEO and serial misogynist Franklin Hart Jnr, played by Sean Needham. Strong, but without resorting to the misconception of emotionless, Tyrer carries the role well, but it’s underwritten, with that her angle of fair pay, equal opportunities and positions for women is as relevant as it was in the eighties – a resounding cheer echoing as she has had enough.

From the Island to the big city, Amber Davies’ talent for musical theatre is put to use in her performances of Judy. Patience is a virtue, her solo number Get Out and Stay Out may not occur until the second act, but it cements Davies as a headliner with star-draw and silences any neigh sayers to the performer’s original television background. Arguably a simple role, Judy’s mousier attitude can be lost against Doralee’s personality or Violet’s strong presence, but Davies manages to hold her own with ease.

This brings us to our final leading lady, the ‘blonde bombshell’ of the trio, Doralee. An epitome of deceptive appearances, Georgina Castle’s not-so-subtle take on Parton’s cinematic counterpart is leaps above others on the stage. Her dedication to volatile comedy is inspiring, stripping off the shackles of a stereotypical character, driving a development which goes beyond what one would expect, but still stays in the realms of superfluous. Doralee’s interest lies not in her appearance, but in her sweet manner, country tones and physical comedy. Her control is without question, the most drawing on stage, indeed it’s rather criminal Castle fails to receive top billing despite being the most accomplished of the leads, and a fine tribute to Parton.

Parton’s music makes for the occasional stand-out number, striking a chord with the room, but on the whole many of the numbers feel repetitious, and dare we say, quite mundane. Vocally, there isn’t any particular issue, but the notion to tune out can strike, inducing some mindless, if cheerful, head bobs as you listen more to the composition than the lyrics.

Riding on a risqué note of hilarity of, Act two is a bitter-sweet turn. With notions of standout performances from the aforementioned Davies, it’s a star-vehicle of a second act, serving to heighten our performer’s roles, without emphasizing plot. Things are too tidy and packed a touch neatly, leading to less slapstick or oomph than the previous act.

Indeed, an admirable quality of 9to5 is the apparent lack of rigorous ageing, a film centring on sexism and female empowerment is still a relevant text, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s comedic nature has moved along with it. What stands above anything for this production is its humour, it’s quick-fire, intense assault of the funny bone – visual gags, obvious gags, satirical humour and lashing upon lashing of dumps upon Trump. It recognises that with a weaker storyline, it’s strength is reliant on cast and entertainment, and two performers extensively delivering the laughs are; Sean Needham and Lucinda Lawrence.

Needham is every sleazy man who said hello to you with his eyes, before his words. Yet, good lord is this an impressive performance in slapstick. He takes everything on the chin, or indeed, the balls. His timing, while stretching in song routines is no less precise in delivery, and while he may reject the advances of Roz, Lawrence’s performance of Heart to Heart deserves every putrid ounce of sultry praise. Carrying a number which could land flat on its face, Lawrence balances vocal range with physicality, and quick costume changes courtesy of Lisa Steven’s choreography.

Well good golly Miss Dolly, this is certainly a turn-up for the books. Perhaps the only time you will want to stay past your shift’s end, don’t bother clocking out – ignore the world out there, soak in the golden radiance of Tom Rogers design work, as 9 to 5 answers your prayers when work suddenly becomes rather nifty.

9 to 5 runs at The Edinburgh Playhouse until November 16th: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/9-to-5-the-musical/edinburgh-playhouse/

Photo credit – Craig Sugden

Crocodile Fever – Traverse Theatre

Written by Meghan Tyler

Directed by Gareth Nicholls

To be blunt, Crocodile Fever is a smack in the face in all of the best ways possible. Dark, hilarious, violent, gruesome, wholesome and a clusterfuck of religious iconography and blasphemy – and you have to get behind every second. It’s a story of sisterhood; a portrayal of a timeless bond that has stood tremendously difficult trials. It has themes of female and Irish oppression and also addresses sexual abuse.  

Sisters Fianna and Alannah (Lisa Dwyer Hogg and Lucianne McEvoy) are entirely relatable. Rebellious Fianna returns home after hearing of her father’s passing; meanwhile Alannah, a mousey cleanliness freak, is tending to the house. The paralyzing anxiety McEvoy conveys, contrasting Dwyer Hogg’s fiery outbursts, is exquisite.

Tyler wanted to write something that would excite 17-year olds. Well – she has (as assuredly as a man in his twenties can say). They’ll also find it touching, disturbing, and hopefully, beyond the laughs, they see a well-crafted narrative of sisterhood, patriarchy and the ill effects of giving up on someone ‘troubled’.

Rife with imagery, Grace Smart’s set design and Rachael Canning’s puppet creation are exceptional. They perfectly capture the slow, reptilian weight of archaic patriarchy from simple physical movements to the show’s finale.

Holding no punches, Crocodile Fever takes every left-turn imaginable. It doesn’t so much throw you down the rabbit hole as toss you into the gaping maw of a hungry beast. Crocodile Fever will put people off, and it bloody well should. If it didn’t have that streak of rebellious, finger-flipping attitude, it wouldn’t work nearly as well as it does.

Photos by Lara Cappelli

She Can’t Half Talk – Bedlam Theatre

Presented by The Edinburgh University Theatre Company

Written & Directed by Sally MacAlister

Runs at Bedlam Theatre until August 25th

Fostering recent accomplishments with female writers, as part of the Edinburgh University Theatre Company, writer Sally MacAlister’s term-time hit She Can’t Half Talk makes a Fringe debut. A series of six femme-lead monologues which focus on unusual or untold perspectives. Stitching together tales of gender and sexuality pervading all aspects of life, She Can’t Half Talk is a delightful collection of stories drawing comfort in their neighbours. Humorous, honest, raw and at times difficult to stomach, this is a superb production with a touching manner.

Trimming for a Fringe run-time, the six monologues are set on rotation, and after witnessing half of the show – you’ll likely crave the rest. Never has such a tantalising opener delivered like this, with six individuals, each with a staggering, relatable story to share. So, stop me if you’ve heard this one – A Cougar, A Foetus, A Camgirl, A Drag Queen, An Actor and A Victim walk onto a stage…

This evening we were in for a treat, an odd term to use with the powerful subject matter, but with largely diverse performances, it’s a delight to watch them and be moved all the same. First, The Actor – Michael Zwiauer, a young gentleman whose Hamlet is up there with the greats, the only issue? He wants to try something new; he wants to be known as someone different. He doesn’t want to be the camp, effeminate Hamlet. An advance in coverage, it helps bring She Can’t Half Talk into the realm of sexuality and gender roles. A voice not many will hear, whipping the rug from beneath us in a powerful performance from Zwiauer.

Here we notice the only drawback to a smaller scale production; transitions can be messy – drawn out with the minimal stagehand. They do a valiant job, a single-member re-arranging props and blocks, but it slows momentum.

Moving from here, we have easily the most effective performance from Áine Higgins, a young Irish woman who refuses to be seen as the victim, even when she has been suffering horrendous abuse. It’s schizophrenic how wildly we swing from an independent, stoic woman and yet, a young girl who refuses to be seen as anything but capable. Higgins delivers such presence in the tougher moments, that even when disgusted by what you hear, she tells the story in such a visceral way, you feel the crunches, the pops and the slaps. It’s a testament to EUTC’s high standards of talent.

And while Higgins may claim the more intense piece, it is Hannah Churchill’s Cougar who receives the juiciest role for laughs, insight and memorable moments. Speaking with her therapist, Zwiauer in a marvellous ‘silent protagonist’ role, this Cougar worries about being forgotten. It’s a comedic piece with wonderful witty writing, concealing a distressing examination of double standards women face as they grow older. Churchill not only balances these laughs with poignancy, but her presence is remarkable.

With only a taster of some of the tales, The Edinburgh University Theatre Company and Sally MacAlister’s writing pushes open the door for femme-lead stories. Saucy, intense and on occasion insightful, this is a production with clout, with gravity and an obvious future in theatre.

Tickets Available from: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/she-can-t-half-talk