Hot Flush New Theatre, Cardiff
Writer: Julie Benson
Lyrics & music: Olly Ashmore
Director: Alan Cohen
Reviewer: Barbara Michaels, Third Age Critic
Some twenty years since her one man show at London’s Festival Hall, Lesley Joseph is doing it again – in a manner of speaking, that is. For Hot Flush, billed as “The naughtiest musical in town,” is not actually a one woman show. Lesley’s co-stars – Matt Slack, Anne Smith, Ruth Keeling and Lori Haley Fox – all have important roles to play, but the focus is on Joseph, in the central character of Myra, a barrister, and a successful one to boot, coping with the menopause and a rat of a husband who leaves her for a blonde bimbo. Much hilarity ensues as, with the help of her friends, also dealing with their own mid-life crises, an ever more desperate Myra tries to put back her biological clock.
Ever since she tottered on impossibly high heels onto our TV screens as man-eater Dorien Green in the hit comedy series Birds of a Feather, Joseph has played to packed audiences wherever there are women – or should I say girls – looking for a good night out. In Cardiff, as elsewhere, women dominated the audience. At the age of 69, can she still cut the mustard? The answer is yes, she can. With a sense of comedy timing that is spot on, Joseph gives her all – and That Walk is still unmistakeable.
However, despite a gut feeling that this across-genre piece is basically a vehicle for Joseph to showcase her undoubted talent, and a somewhat clichéd plot line, Hot Flush has some deper themes – errant husbands being only a part of a larger picture. These themes become more evident in the second act which is, to my mind, a great improvement on the first half where strident sound levels drowned out some of the lyrics. The best musical numbers, several of which rely on familiar tunes, are a welcome feature of the second half, which gets off to a flying start as the talented Matt Slack who, as the man in the cast, plays all the male roles, takes centre stage..
He does so with a perceptible relish and expertise that makes his every entrance a joy, and forms a great foil to the women’s antics. Jokes –many of them cruder than those heard on a building site – come thick and fast, although some of the more subtle anecdotes went unnoticed on the first night in Cardiff. Writer Julie Benson’s intention was to extend her original book about the female menopause into a musical about women who were going through a stressful time in their lives, but was funny – and in that she succeeds. If you are looking for a night out with the girls, it’s fine. But don’t take your maiden aunt.
Run: Thursday & Friday, April 24th and 25th