This warm tale of love and last chances weaves together three very different characters as they are brought together in the afterlife bar, Dyke Heaven.
Queenie, a 60-something year old ex-beauty queen, has spent her life making what she feels are the right choices by society’s norms and so is very surprised to be spending her afterlife in a lesbian bar. Polly Hemingway is wonderfully expressive and brings a warmth and softness to her character that could easily be lost beneath the difficult choices she has had to make.
Ollie, on the other hand, is a Beryl Reid / Oliver Hardy hybrid (harking back to the days when lesbians were forced into the butch-femme role-play that is still too-often perceived as their only reality) and has lived her life true to her desires. Amanda Boxer is entirely convincing, and delivers her witty one-liners with excellent comic timing. Ollie is delighted to be in Dyke Heaven as it is so very reminiscent of the Gateways Club, a popular lesbian bar in Chelsea made famous by the 1969 film The Killing of Sister George (in which Beryl Reid dresses as Oliver Hardy). Indeed, several references to this movie are made throughout the play – both explicitly and implied.
The arrival of Mia Mackie’s Shirley to the bar causes something of a stir. Queenie flits from rages of wild jealousy to blank-faced denial, while Ollie jumps from lustful to intrigued and back again. Mackie brings forward some very difficult emotions and handles the complicated character with skill.
Overall, Maureen Chadwick has written a piece that is dark but tender, and infused with warmth and gentle humour throughout.
The Speed Twins plays at the Riverside Studios, Hammersmith until 28 September. Tickets are £22.50 (£15 conc.) from http://www.riversidestudios.co.uk/cgi-bin/page.pl?l=1370426957