The intergenerational comedy drama 3Women is comedienne Katy Brand’s debut play, currently running at the Trafalgar Studios. It puts three women in a hotel room on the eve of a wedding, with the aim for them to bond. The result Is 80 minutes of uneventful bickering, however.
18-year-old Laurie (Maisie Richardson-Sellers) is the stereotypical millennial-to-the-extreme; genderfluid, in an open, long-distance, virtual relationship, and full of ideas about a robotic, genderless future. Her mother Suzanne (Debbie Chazen) is a single mum whose main life achievement has been bringing up Laurie, and who has finally learned to accept her averageness after growing up under the disappointed nose of grandmother Eleanor (Anita Dobson), who married too young and suffered with alcoholism and anorexia ever since.
As the night progresses, the alcohol flows and the tensions rise (so far so predictable), the characters never really become more than these cardboard cut-outs; they remain one-sided, generalised prototypes of the generation they each represent.
The script is occasionally truly funny (Eleanor’s comment that “feeling alive” is just a euphemism for “good sex” is one of the multiple occasions that draw audible laughter), but more than once the one-liners are a little cheesy, and feel like an easy way to get laughs. The feminist agenda is laid out quite thickly over a script that simultaneously leans on female stereotypes. Especially for a play written by a woman, this is a shame.
Unfortunately, Michael Yale’s direction doesn’t do much to alleviate the issues at hand. The actors spit out their often complicatedly witty lines without the slightest effort, making their arguments feel unrealistically perfect, and quite rehearsed. Laurie and Suzanne don’t manage to pull off a convincing mother-daughter bond, despite (or perhaps rather because of) their many doting gestures of hand-stroking and head-kissing. While Eleanor and Suzanne’s toxic relationship is played out well, none of the characters ever make an unexpected move.
In the end, the evening is just rather uneventful. After about an hour of bickering about the past and generational differences, some real conflict is finally thrown into the mix by a confession from Laurie’s side, but this then trails off into nothing of significance, either, and the play ends as predictably as it started. One can’t help but wonder whether this piece would have premiered in a West End theatre with a similarly high production value, had it been an unknown writer’s debut.
3Women is not unpleasant to watch; it’s bound to bring a smile on your face from time to time, and we probably all recognise a part of ourselves, a daughter, mother, aunt or grandmother in some of the characters. It’s a great show for a bit of escapism and comedy, but it won’t leave you with much food for thought afterwards, as it has already spelt everything out for itself.
3Women is playing at the Trafalgar Studios until 9 June
Photo: Charlie JH Round-Turner