Deborah’s youngest daughter has flown the nest; her oldest still hasn’t given her any grandchildren and her husband is fixated on running a marathon – so home life is rather quiet. But then a friend suggests she joins her book club and her whole life changes.
The audience meet every member of the book club, a group of people you wouldn’t likely see together in real life, which makes the fact that this is a one woman show all the more impressive. Amanda Muggleton is a fantastic performer and must be one of those people who always captivates friends with fabulous stories. Some of the highlights of the show come from her impromptu interaction with the audience. It is almost as if most have forgotten that we are actually an audience in a theatre rather than just having a chat with Deborah over a coffee. This is probably the atmosphere Muggleton is hoping for as she takes several breaks from her story, usually to locate the ringing phone she’s forgotten where she put. Perhaps the most incredible moment of the show is seeing an English woman try to say Llanfairpwlgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (a Welsh town), in a Welsh accent and succeed in doing so perfectly.
The best thing about Muggleton’s portrayal of Deborah is that she is funny but also shows warmth and she makes Deborah seem like an actual person that could be your neighbour. She doesn’t hold back on anything whether it’s accents, body language or comedy and it makes the performance rather delightful to watch.
There are a couple of references to Donald Trump in the sense of a rather unfortunate looking baby and although playwright Roger Hall wrote this show before the news of the past few weeks, some of the references hit very close to the mark if not bang on it. These don’t get as many laughs as they deserve. Perhaps it’s too soon or just plain unnerving.
The audience – mostly middle aged – nod, laugh and approve of Deborah’s story which says a lot about the audience it’s aimed at. For a younger audience member tales of motherhood, adultery and a couple going through a midlife crisis are harder to relate to. There are many occasions where the audience laugh but it feels like it’s is going straight over my head. There’s also one scene that relies entirely on physical comedy that cannot be seen from every point of the auditorium and from some viewpoints it’s unclear why everyone else is laughing hysterically.
Although it is an entertaining enough piece, it might be one for younger audiences to pass on.
The Book Club plays the King’s Head Theatre until November 5.