One for the girls out for a laugh

Cheese and marmalade sandwich anyone? Bev (Leanne Jones) and Faith (Alison Young) introduce themselves to Sarah (Maureen Nolan)

The Naked Truth

Wolverhampton Grand

***

THIS is probably one of the few times you will ever see The Naked Truth and subtle in the same sentence.

The two are hardly on the same planet with the Truth being brash, crude, admittedly at times very funny but entrenched firmly in girls’ night out territory with two manicured fingers to the world.

It tells the tale of five disparate women who sign up for a pole dancing class in the village hall. There is randy Bev, played by Leanne Jones, who was the original Tracy Turnblad in the West End production of Hairspray incidentally. She is the in-yer-face champion of larger ladies everywhere, taking on all comers in her sexual exploits while her friend Faith (Alison Young) has never been kissed, or anything else for that matter, as she stretches the boundaries of dim towards almost total darkness.

Then there is cynical Rita (Sarah White) a Scouser in a loveless, abusive marriage while tactless Tricia, played with some style by understudy Wolverhampton born Sophie Michaels, talks incessantly of her perfect marriage, perfect life and her desire for a perfect boob job for perfect husband Gareth. Then there is Sarah (Maureen Nolan) who is, well, normal. Married with kids, no nookie on the side, no abuse or dark secrets just a husband and family, like most of the audience really.

Their teacher is ex-pole dancer and single mum Gabby (Nikki Sanderson) who like the rest has a tale to tell.

Holding them all together is cancer. Gabby’s mum died of it and when Sarah is diagnosed with terminal breast cancer the girls decide to put on a charity show for cancer research which creates its own finale of a show within a show.

As a play though it is all a bit formulaic; we have fat Bev who has, if not the best, at least the most prolific sex life but it is all unfulfilled, empty and meaningless and behind the fun, bawdy façade is a sad person looking for affection and love.

OBSESSED WITH BOOBS

There is Tricia obsessed with new boobs for her Gareth hiding her insecurity behind a façade of confidence and a slim perfect body, apart from the boobs that is, who discovers appearance is not everything and she has to learn to love herself for who she really is. Be herself and everything will be fine – sort of..

Rita is in a marriage which ended years ago. Her husband was cheating, and threatening, so Rita stayed for her two girls, sleeping around in retaliation.

Faith, who has done nothing, seen nothing and who’s only experience of sex comes through the lurid tales of Bev, is looking not so much for love as her starter for ten - or less for that matter.

Incidentally Alison Young might not be as well known as other members of the cast but on this performance she certainly deserves to be.

What it all comes down to though, as subtle as a housebrick through the window, is girl power - empowerment and all that - showing that a group of stereotype women who may be struggling alone can achieve anything when they join forces – they can conjure up an escape for Rita and even find a sex life and love for the virgin no more Faith along with knocking up a pole dancing show to end the show.

The play has laughs, along with a defiance of breast cancer, which is a constant threat to women just as prostate cancer is to men, but what the play doesn’t have is substance or depth, paying no more than lip service to the issues it raises.

Sarah has terminal breast cancer, which is probably poignant for Maureen Nolan whose sister Bernie was diagnosed with the disease last April and sisters Anne and Linda had also been diagnosed in 2000 and 2006 while her father Tommy died of liver cancer in 1998. Cancer has been a dark companion for the Nolan family for some time.

Yet despite Maureen’s best efforts it was hard to find any real empathy for Sarah or indeed any of the characters. They are never really allowed to develop beyond just parts in a play so they never become people we start to know or care about.

This was as far from last week’s offering of The Pitmen Painters as you could get but then again Dave Simpson’s play knows its target audience – mainly women on hen nights, GNOs who roar with laughter at suggestive gestures, sexual references and innuendo and genitalia jokes of which there were many – women are not the demure creatures they like us to believe. And to be fair, they loved it, so what do I know, after all I’m just a bloke. To 11-06-11.

Roger Clarke 

 

And in pole position the next night. . .

***

THIS Dave Simpson play, on it's fifth tour, has been described as tailor-made for women, so maybe that's the reason I found it rather pedestrian and predictable at times.

Since the action revolves round a pole dancing class you might expect men to be flocking to the theatre, but one rare gent who squeezed past me to reach his seat in the dress circle with his wife/partner gave me a sickly grin and said: "Glad you have come".

Women made up a huge percentage of the audience and judging by the cackles of laughter here and there they enjoyed the activities of the five actresses, four letter words and all.

It has similarities with Stepping Out, a play in which a bunch of women fumbled their way through tap-dancing lessons, but you just knew they were going to perform impressively before the final curtain came down.

In this case Tricia (Julie Buckfield), Sarah (Maureen Nolan), Faith (Alison Young), Bev (Leanne Jones) and Rita (Sarah White) take up pole dancing lessons to get fit, then decide to use their new skills for the admirable task of raising cash for a breast cancer charity.

During the coaching by Gabby (Nikki Sanderson), the fact that Sarah has the disease shocks the ladies into action, but not before their various matrimonial and sexual problems and fantacies have come to light. The show ends with the five performing some impressive contortions around three poles.

The Naked Truth gets its final exposure on Saturday night 11.06.11.

Paul Marston

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