Are There More Of You?

London, SW11. Battersea. Still gradually being gentrified after a thirty year or so stretch. Swirling around tangentially are four women who have already lived full lives but are not about to submit to anonymity: Claire, ex-wife of an ex-diplomat; Sofia, Italian cafe owner; Sara, New Age-y therapist; Sam, hard-nosed business woman.

The thumbnail descriptions suggest cliché and one dimensionality. Alison Skilbeck, who both writes and performs all the characters, rises triumphantly above both. It seems ungallant to refer to such a sparkling, attractive presence as a veteran but surely that is a part of her strength. She has worked with Ayckbourn and teaches at RADA, just two items on an extensive CV. Her observational skills both as writer and performer ensure that the characters live and breathe. Claire finds new purpose and possibly romance at an art class. Sofia widens her catering horizons and attempts to live a freer life having always been under the suffocating presence of her aged mother. Sara, wounded and seeking to heal herself as much as her clients, is betrayed and reveals a possibly witchy side to her character. Sam regains her self-belief from an unlikely source.

All this is conveyed with great economy of physical resource. Wearing a simple black dress, Skilbeck does no more than alter her hair, change footwear and an extra outer garment to immediately lead the audience into a new character at which point her words and movement complete the picture. There is not a misjudged moment in the play. Jeremy Stockwell directs, well attuned to his collaborator. And no mention has yet been made of how laugh out loud funny the piece frequently is. The struggle in this review has been to avoid the use of the word “desperate”. These women, housewives or otherwise, are anything but, rising above difficulty and living life on their own terms.

A near full auditorium clapped long and hard at the end which was far less than Skilbeck’s due. There cannot be a more delicious cocktail of blood, zbaglione, joss sticks and expense accounts available anywhere.

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
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Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
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The Blurb

Former 'Archers' star, Alison Skilbeck, plays four utterly different women on the verge of a nervous breakthrough, linked only by a postcode. 'Brilliantly observed, richly comic characters, played to painful perfection' (Alan Ayckbourn).

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