Theatre Review: The Housewives Of The 1950s

By Lindsey Last edited 172 months ago
Theatre Review: The Housewives Of The 1950s

housewives50s.jpg Although British TV hasn't quite stooped to a reality TV show about "housewives" it's probably only a matter of time (does Wife Swap count?) so this bright, song-filled piece of theatre set on a fictional 1950s "Britain's Best Housewife" telly contest is riffing on timely themes and formats.

The terrible TV show promotes an ideal of housewifery replete with advertisers shamelessly pushing their beauty and household products. For the contestants, 'waste not, want not' is still admirable, as is being 'a brick' but these women have had to get back in the home and under their husbands in post war Britain. They're urged to slave away at domestic chores, bake like a dream, raise perfect children, defer to their men on everything as well as always look gorgeous and ready to shag on demand. Dark thoughts about depression, infertility, ageing and the inability to achieve perfection crackle under the surface smiles and seep out in the contestants' monologues.

Neatly decorated with saccharine musical breaks for songs like "If I'd known you were coming I'd have baked a cake" and "Stay young and beautiful" the piece spoofs an unattainable ideal that we should be able to smile at wryly. However, a rendition of "Cry me a river" sees the winning contestant visibly crack and somewhere behind our 21st century sensibilities there's a nagging sense that women are still under pressure to be domestic goddesses as well as thriving professionals.

Which means there's plenty of meaty stuff to work with and so, if, as hoped, this piece is further developed beyond its current compact 35 minute format, there should be plenty of scope for a deeper satirical swipe.

The Housewives of the 1950s is at The White Bear, very near Kennington Tube, tonight, tomorrow and 2nd and 3rd January. 9pm (5.45pm Sundays). £5. Book online or call the box office.

Last Updated 29 December 2009