Actor and comedian Karen Dunbar made her name as part of the cast in late ‘90s comedy show Chewin the Fat where, as a young woman, she convincingly played Betty, the knee length knicker wearing pensioner, whose crude sexual wartime memories shocked her young interviewers.
As she steps in to the world of script writing, Dunbar reprises her role as an old woman, but a different kind in Chrissy, a widow suffering from painful fibromyalgia whose underwear stays well out of view. Chrissy has been pals since childhood with straight laced, up tight, devoutly Catholic wee Jean (Maureen Carr) and the extravagant, pretentious, super confident Coco (Clare Waugh), who’s come from Paris to Partick speaking less franglais than franglaswegian. While Jan and Coco both love Chrissy, they can’t stand each other.
The three may go back a long way, and think they have each other weighed, cut and dried, but over this tragi- comedy of shifting dynamics, written with enormous wit and fantastic word play, secrets old and new find themselves squirming out of the woodwork.
The characters may be exaggerated and the situations heightened, with banana cream flavoured hash being vaped in a Patrick conservatory and Jean having an ‘eppy fanny’ as she finds her inner Dizzee Rascal, but at its core the situations are utterly recognisable. Very diverse women remaining firm friends, being open to changing circumstances, willing to support each other for the sake their shared past and being able to look at life without pretence.
The cast of three strong women brings great character acting and comedy performances to this debut play with Maureen Carr becoming a hilarious Mrs McMalaprop thanks to some deft writing from Dunbar. What #71 it misses in form, it more than makes up for in insight and humour.
Bookended by Charles Aznavour’s hit Dance in the Old Fashioned Way, this is an enjoyable end to the season’s A Play, a Pie and a Pint at the Traverse giving its lunchtime audience plenty of laughs and enough to ponder.
Tue 31 Oct – Sat 4 Nov, 1pm; Fri 27 Oct, 7pm age recommend 14+