Reviewed by Carmel Shortall
The five women in Andrea Donovan’s one woman show, Regret Me Not, range from the odd to the very strange indeed but they are all united by regret. The character-led comedy is bleak indeed as each character reveals her desperation by increments. All five are from different walks of life, regions and even countries, allowing Donovan to showcase her talent for accents.
As M People’s “Search for the Hero Inside Yourself” booms out over the sound system, manic and terrifying life coach, Kathleen, (call me Kathleen, or Kathy, or Kath, or Kate, or Katy…) bursts into the room, smashing down the fourth wall as she picks several members of the audience to be recipients of her crazy and insensitive advice. It could be said that this character trope has been explored before but few have been as genuinely scary, or desperate, as recovering ibuprofen addict, Kathleen.
Possibly the most finely nuanced of Donovan’s characters is Ms Warner, the kiwi swimming instructor who can’t swim, envies the girls and lusts after the boys and has unfulfilled dreams of being a model. She announces her plans to escape them all, even as she harangues her pupils for wearing dental floss” bikinis or for slathering themselves in sun oil, despite it being an indoor pool.
As Scottish Vivienne sits smoking an imaginary fag, she tells us she has never been further than Carlisle and has only slept with one man – the useless husband who has run off; perhaps to Italy, perhaps to Alton Towers. But she has no regrets when she heads off to Papua New Guinea and finds a young lover.
Then there is the OCD, nose-picking woman who wants to adopt an African baby and read him, poignantly, Shakespeare’s sonnets or, less poignantly, The Da Vinci Code. She explains why she thinks she would make a good parent but fails to convince, unsurprisingly.
Interleaving the stories of the more realistic (ish!) comic characters is the strangely gothic tale of the posh girl who is finally reunited – in a haunted house – with the hermaphrodite suitor she spurned in school by making him/her a laughing stock. It sits oddly with the downbeat, character-led comedy of the other segments and somehow strikes a wrong note.
Aside from this minor quibble, Andrea Donovan has shown that she is a talented and versatile actor, able to mine her characters for pathos and grotesquerie, as well as comic effect.
Regret Me Not continues at the Sheephaven Bay, 2 Mornington Street every evening at 6.00pm until Sunday 29th August.