Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Yep, that’s me, Yours Truly. Mrs Carmichael is biting her nails and drinking too much sav blanc in a futile attempt to recover from a trifecta of disappointment that was last Thursday night at the theatre.

warning, warning, warning (Playhouse poster)
disaster warning ( credit: Playhouse Theatre promotional poster)

Watching The Graham Norton Show before Christmas I laughed along with the host and his guest, Tamsin Grieg, for both of whom I have much respect. Tamsin, as always, was elegant and funny. Graham and the lead actress in the musical being promoted, made Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown a not to be missed West End adventure for me and hopefully mis amigas. I accepted their virtual invitation, and in turn, sent mine to March’s Lanzarote Ladies as a bonding exercise before we seek sunshine in the Canaries. All accepted with alacrity and I bought four tickets.

It was Tamsin (Green Wing, Episodes, Jumpy to name but a few of her successes); it was Pedro Almodóvar (Volver, I’m So Excited and many, many more funky films); it was Spanish and we were headed to Spain; it was still previews and seats were reasonably priced. What could possibly go wrong?

Quite a lot as it turns out.

I have never been to the Playhouse Theatre before. Now I know why. The vertiginous seating, the usher not knowing where our seats were or how to find the safety ropes and crampons needed to access them, the spotlight drilling into my back and highlighting patrons’ bald spots and greying coiffures, the red-swagged and heavily dust laden curtains that we, in the upper balcony, were forced to look down upon, the filthy armchairs in one empty box to our left and down, down, down (a mirror propped in said box reflecting piles of junk behind same dusty drapes) were annoying/amusing add-ons to our theatrical experience but the fact that we could not see very much of the stage from our ‘non-restricted view’ seats is unforgivable. Shame on you Playhouse Theatre.

illusory view because taken standing and with no audience remaining (mrscarmichael)
illusory view – taken standing and with no audience remaining to block sight lines (mrscarmichael)

As those in front of us leaned forward in the vein hope of seeing more that a quarter of the stage, our view became oh so much more restricted. At times (before I seat hopped) the stage, for me was a human- less wasteland. At one point some desultory laughter caused me to note aloud that I didn’t see anything funny.

“The policeman are spooning,” my one remaining companion informed me.

On standing up I could see the spooning coppers lying on the stage. Still not funny but at least visible now. Of course I couldn’t remain standing although others behind and to the right of me, I noticed, did.

Voices came from we knew not where. Only if action occurred way upstage or centre right could we spot it. Oh, if a cast member appeared on the balcony then, hallelujah, we could see them. But only from their flies down.

Almodóvar made this movie in 1988. How then can its premise be so dated? Multiple women jilted by an ageing lothario. If being left nineteen years previously deserves a breakdown I think we, as woman-kind, need to step into the real world. The fact alone that the actor playing Ivan, the male-fatale, was devoid of any obvious sex appeal and vanished like his voice/ singing ability into the backdrops, sets the story up to fail.

Fail it did. Not being able to see it failing became quite funny. Funnier than Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown anyway. The acting was poor but I believe the lines were poorer. The songs left us wanting.The singing too. One poor girl did not appear to be mic’d. Perhaps this was a good thing. We will never know.

Two of our foursome decided to cut and run at half time. They were not alone in the stampede. Apparently, as they were bolting for the door, an usherette offered my friends seats in the dress circle. She said that the show got better in the second half. They declined. Close to freedom, the thought of any more am-dram was intolerable. They made the right choice. The show did not get better in the second half. I stayed against my better judgement, moved seats twice more and woke the gentleman on my left when his head got too heavy on my shoulder. The two escapees were home sipping chilled chablis before I left the theatre. Ah me.

It is only my opinion but I do think Tamsin Grieg looked ever so slightly embarrassed accepting the applause. Thus I did not feel the need to stay for any prolonged clapping. Knowing the cast would not notice my absence because they so rarely glanced up, up, up to the gods during the show, I made a break for the ladies’ loo. Avoiding this queue counts as the success of my evening in London’s West End.

“Do you want to stay for the Q and A?” A…….. asked me as she scaled the stairs to the exit.

That thought gave us the biggest laugh of the whole evening.




24 thoughts on “Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

  1. I saw this a few years back, nosebleed seats but an honestly unrestricted view. Can’t remember a thing about it other than Patti Lupone, and let’s face it, Patti makes up for a multitude of sins 😀

  2. Gah… nothing worse than sitting through a live performance, especially knowing you will never get that time back. Hope the Sauv Blanc consumption is at least a fun experience. 🙂

  3. We paid top dollar, or yen as it were, for front row balcony seats to see Cheryl Crow and Jackson Browne, only to be greeted by spotlights directly into our eyes and music so loud the lyrics were distorted and then even louder until I couldn’t identify the songs. Nothing to laugh about. Not enough Sav B in the world.

    1. Oh you poor things. That would have been so so disappointing. At least we had a yummy meal beforehand and thankfully didn’t pay top dollar. Wouldn’t be laughing then.

  4. you are a born critic – instead of those snotty reviews you give us a laugh a minute – thank you! ” the usher not knowing where our seats were or how to find the safety ropes and crampons needed to access them,”- had me rolling in the aisles

  5. Yikes, those seats are vertigo-inducing! But I agree that it’s much better for the women on the verge of that nervous breakdown to be on the stage, and not in the audience. As ever, you make me laugh a great deal!

  6. I saw this on opening night on Broadway. It closed shortly afterward to nobody’s surprise. A late dinner after the theater was fun, though. Best.

  7. … I’ve been there – I mean the bad seating. Especially in small historical theaterhouses this is a problem, because the upper ranks weren’t concepted for seatings back then. They were intended for viewers in standing position without seating and therefore less expensive tickets…

    I liked the movie a lot. A couple of weeks ago there was a rerun and it was still fun to watch. 🙂

  8. A lot funnier to read about in your account than it would have been to be in the theatre watching and listening. Destiny’s Tot in Theatreland!
    I remember THAT I liked the movie a lot back in the day, but have never felt tempted to see it again.

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