Review: Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown at the Playhouse Theatre

Women on the VergeLet’s face it: Tamsin Greig is a national treasure. Who doesn’t like Dr Todd in Green Wing or Fran in Black Books?

It’s been a brave move to go from the small screen (and silver screen) to the stage, in the all-singing, all-dancing production of Almodóvar’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breadown.

Madrid, 1987: now, where did the time go? I remember watching Almodóvar’s film, and I guess like many others I was surprised it was released so many years ago.

First Impressions

I loved the clever staging and the costumes, which hinted at the 80s and 60s. The live music added an extra dimension, making the whole production feel very polished.

Tamsin’s singing voice was well trained, and you could see that there have been many rehearsals to get everything pitch perfect. Sometimes I was distracted by Tamsin’s “Madonna-esque” muscular arms and shoulders, who practically had a role of their own.

I Know it’s a Musical, But…

I also find another element quite distracting: the singing. I know, I know, this is a musical. But I felt that the production would benefit from having more dialogue and less singing. As you can see from this video, all the actors have a solid musical theatre background and they worked well as an ensemble.

All in all Women on the Verge is very enjoyable, but also very safe. I couldn’t help comparing the theatre version with the daring and outrageous film version and I was wondering how much the musical had to be “sanitised” for British audiences… Surely humour was invented in Great Britain…

Looking at the audience I could see people of all ages and orientation, possibly many were Almodovar fans and therefore were used to Almodovar’s trademark shock factor, which was regrettably missing here. It was all very much like a comedy of errors from the 1700s.

Would I recommend it? I think if you are a hardcore fan of Almodóvar’s you have two choices: you either decide to go and see his work in any shape or form and make your own decision, or maybe consider whether you want to see a “family-friendly” stage version of his ground-breaking film.

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown is at the Playhouse Theatre.
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