Linda

Posted on: 10 December 2015 by Laurence Green

A woman, who at 55 seems to have it all, suddenly Linda her life falling apart around her in Penelope Skinner's flawed but timely new drama Linda (Royal Court Theatre), directed by Michael Longhurst.

Linda at Royal Court Theatre

Linda is at the prime of her life with two children, a loving company. But storm clouds are gathering - one of the children is traumatised, her male-menopausal, teacher husband is having an affair with a woman more than half his age, and her job is being jeopardised by an ambitious younger colleague who has had none of the struggles Linda has had.

This play is a telling portrait of what women, particularly those over 50 have to face - "they start to feel invisible," Linda says, adding "Helen Mirren is the only older woman still allowed to exist" - and is in particular a disconcerting portrait of one woman. Writer Penelope Skinner pictures the combined effect of conflict between the generations and anxiety about body image with the result that pertinent issues about older women getting to feel irrelevant in today's society, in which marketing and media are all aimed at the younger generation, get lost in a sensory overload. Indeed at times the plotting and arguments are heavy-handed and the play lapses from being excellent to being clichéd. But Skinner amusingly and pointedly sends up the beauty industry and the myths we so often spin around glamour.

One of the most striking things about the production is Es Devlin's chic, stylish revolving set with its swan-like curves and cluster of deluxe office and domestic interiors that vie the story a sharply realistic feel.

Noma Dumezweni, who stepped in at short notice to replace an ill Kim Cattrall , is funny touching and heartfelt as Linda, the perfect epitome of a high flyer and fill of zest, She receives strong support from Dominic Mafham as her husband, preoccupied with fanciful dreams of rock stardom, Karla Crome and Imogen Byron as her troubled offspring, and Amy Beth Hayes as her catty, scheming blonde business rival.

This work isn't a reproving exercise in male-bashing, even though it feminist ire is plain, it dares to suggest that women can be their own worst enemies. We are left to ponder the fact that the awards our protagonist has proudly achieved over the years are no substitute for a well balanced life.

Linda

Royal Court Theatre
Runs until 9 January 2016
Box office: 020 7565 5000

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