Maureen Chadwick is known for her portrayals of fierce feminine characters within TV programmes Bad Girls and Footballers’ Wives, and the protagonists in her new play, The Speed Twins are no exception. Premiering at Hammersmith’s Riverside Studios, The Speed Twins is an intriguing and, at times, touching look at the relationships between women, romantic and otherwise.
It follows Queenie, who finds herself in ‘The Gateways’ basement nightclub abruptly along with two other companions, and as the alcohol takes hold, Queenie is forced to remember the motorbike crash that changed her life forever 50 years ago. When she is faced with the choice between who she was and who she wants to be, it leads her to challenge her life choices and true feelings. The play gets off to a slow start, as we begin to discover the setting, and how and why our characters are there, but it soon becomes evident that this is a version of ‘heaven’ where religion only angers the powers that be, and the choices you make for your future come from your experiences in the past.
Polly Hemingway plays Queenie with a confident and ballsy turn, throwing in hints of remorse for her past behaviours. Her ex-lover, Shirley (Mia Mackie), is a young, spirited lady crushed by the effects of the same motorcycle accident, still pining for the relationship the two shared so many years ago. Trapped in between the two is Ollie, (Amanda Boxer) an Oliver Hardy lookalike who is comfortable in her own skin, and doesn’t understand some of Queenie’s harder decisions.
Director Simon Evans does a grand job of directing the three actresses, but the main plotline doesn’t really come to fruition until the second act; the first half provides not much action, but the second half provides some of the most intense discussions of homosexuality I’ve ever heard. The play’s exploration of how people are born gay, and Queenie’s battle with living life proudly as a gay woman poses some very interesting discussions and opinions. There is the concept that should you choose to live your life again, would you choose to live a ‘straight’ life?
Andrew D Edwards’s design is atmospheric and Johanna Town’s lighting really helps to convey the women’s emotions well. It’s a slow burner of a play, as much of the time you spend trying to work out where the characters are and why, but once they expose the real plot twist, if becomes quite fast-paced – and generously sprinkled with humour throughout. There may be too many stereotypical lesbian references, and the few nods to The Gateway’s many events got a little lost in the younger audience, but Amanda Boxer I think, drives the play extremely well, and Maureen Chadwick may have a new hit to add to her collection.
The Speed Twins is playing at Riverside Studios until 28 September. For more information and tickets, see the Riverside Studios website.