“Hammerton and Champain have fantastic chemistry; their sisterly dynamic highly believable as it fluctuates between highly loving and purposefully antagonistic”
Flushed, the multi award-winning play directed by Catherine Cranfield, is the latest in a line of much needed productions exploring women’s health. We meet two sisters, Jen (Iona Champain) and Marnie (Elizabeth Hammerton), who are best friends. They go on double dates together; they go clubbing together; and they wait nervously on the results of pregnancy tests together. However, when twenty-five-year-old Marnie’s period is late and she is diagnosed with Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (a sort of early menopause), the siblings’ relationship is tested as the younger Jen struggles to comfort Marnie appropriately.
A story told against the backdrop of seven different bathrooms from nightclub to flat, Flushed explores the impacts of the rare medical condition and the desire to fulfil one’s ‘womanly’ purpose of having biological children.
Hammerton and Champain have fantastic chemistry; their sisterly dynamic highly believable as it fluctuates between highly loving and purposefully antagonistic. The pair are also dressed in colour matched outfits – pink and black – which connects them visually. Hammerton delivers a particularly powerful monologue about wanting to be pregnant (with a humorous interjection about revelling in the opportunity to pretend she is fat rather than expecting to overfamiliar strangers) and holding her tiny new-born for the first time between her palm and the inside of her elbow. Champain brings a wonderful humour to the play that helps to lighten an otherwise upsetting subject matter.
The set is simple, and it need not be any more complex. The duo makes good use of the sparse space – two toilets about two metres apart and a neon pink sign saying ‘toilets’ on the back wall – with some mimetic techniques such as acting opening the cubicle door upon entrance and exit. Many women would agree that the bathroom space is often identified as a refuge for female heart-to-hearts so this setting – though slightly comical – is completely understandable.
The lighting (Anthony Englezou) moves between pink and black and fades to darkness between each scene. The sound (Oscar Maguire) is well done especially when the sisters are in a club where we hear pounding but muffled music as if there really is a raging party going on next door.
Flushed explores an impressive amount in its sixty-minute run time. Having not heard of POI before last night, I am so pleased that theatre such as this exists to educate both men and women on little known but devastating health conditions. It is also a joy to see such tender sisterhood presented on stage. Cranfield’s production is an absolute pleasure and will no doubt leave most spectators both highly emotional and better educated.
“DuBois is an exceptionally funny performer and certainly knows how to put on a show that will leave anyone in stitches”
Who wouldn’t want to attend their own funeral? With the opportunity to listen in to heartfelt eulogies from your nearest and dearest, you can’t go wrong. Certainly, that is how Myra DuBois, award-winning drag persona of Gareth Joyner and 2020 Britain’s Got Talent semi-finalist, sees it, using the theatrical plot device of her own death to stage a show in celebration of, you guessed it, herself. The new genre of theatre which she entitles ‘snuff cabaret’ takes us through the dearly departed’s highs and lows from her majestic birth (a star is born) to her questionable entanglement with her ex-wellness guru.
DuBois’ wit is unparalleled, especially when interacting with the audience. A particularly hilarious moment came when DuBois asked someone whether they had seen her perform before to which they said they had at a pub in Chiswick only a few weeks prior. Myra’s indignation at being reminded of such ‘lowly work’ whilst upon a West End stage was simply brilliant and became a recurring joke throughout the show. The queen’s comedy never lets up and barely a minute goes by without some sort of punchline or biting insult being hurled at those sat in the first few rows of the stalls. An extra bonus were those jokes directed at the audience at home as the show was being streamed online for those antsy about returning to live venues.
DuBois delivers three punchy musical numbers, the first to open her set emphasising just how ‘D E A Dead’ she really is. She goes on to sing about how selfish it would be for her to be an organ donor (as only one person rather than the masses would benefit from her sacrifice) in a jaunty ‘Always Look on the Brightside of Life’ style tune. The show closes with a rousing rendition of Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson’s I Know Him So Well with Myra and the audience assuming these roles respectively.
Before Myra took to the stage however, Frank Lavender, a self-entitled sex symbol from south Yorkshire, warmed up the audience with an amusing yet near painful repetition of a series of ‘dad jokes’ which frequently elicited audible groans arose from the audience. Though his set was enjoyable, especially the sections featuring his second wife (and DuBois’ plainer twin) Rose, this was a questionable way to open the show as Lavender’s comedic stylings were unlikely to energise the audience. Followed as well by a lengthy thirty-minute break before Myra’s set, the first hour of the show lacked momentum though was quickly forgotten once DuBois stepped on stage.
Rose returned to the stage throughout the performance to support DuBois. Her most notable contribution was reading a poorly rhymed poem to honour her ‘deceased’ sister. Rose’s presence offered some variety and allowed for further brilliance from DuBois as she berated her less glamorous sibling.
The set is simple but highly effective. Four white columns topped with flowers frame the stage with an urn and large image of the departed at the centre. DuBois lamented how she wanted the stage to look like Buckingham Palace in 1997 but it in fact looked more like a school gate after a car crash with one bunch of gas station flowers discarded on the floor (just once example of the queen’s outrageous humour). The lighting was variable and playful, moving effortlessly between dramatic spotlights to colourful fanfare. DuBois looked phenomenal as well, her vintage hair and make up dazzling in the West End lights.
It is no surprise that Myra has such a dedicated legion of fans (which she brilliantly calls AdMyras). DuBois is an exceptionally funny performer and certainly knows how to put on a show that will leave anyone in stitches.