Dirty Dusting

I must admit to feeling a tad confused after experiencing Dirty Dusting. Had I just watched a bold, empowering piece of feminist theatre, a searing indictment of ageism in the 21st century, or a comedy which felt like it had been written in the 1970s? Or, indeed, all three? Perhaps my confusion was partly down to the audience; predominantly made up of women aged between 35 and 60, there was a definite Hens’ Night “We’re here to enjoy ourselves, whatever happens” vibe, even before The Cure's “Friday I’m in Love” launched proceedings.

Technically, it’s difficult to fault the script by Ed Waugh and Trevor Wood, even as it regularly totters from one well-flagged punchline to the next.

Olive (Dolores Porretta), Elsie (Crissy Rock) and Gladys (Leah Bell) are three senior citizen topping up their meagre pensions with cleaning work in a large office block. Mocked as “the Jurassic Park Shift”, one Friday they learn that they’re about to be let go – to the obvious glee of their manager, vindictive Mummy’s Boy David (Lee Brannigan). While from slightly different classes, the three women have known each other for most of their lives – not least from their time together in the Girl Guides – and are always ready to watch each others’ backs. When they mistakenly receive a call intended for a local sex line, they're inspired to set themselves up as the “Telephone Belles”, in order to “clean up” some cash during their final weekend on the premises.

Technically, it’s difficult to fault the script by Ed Waugh and Trevor Wood, even as it regularly totters from one well-flagged punchline to the next. The characters are strongly drawn, albeit largely two-dimensional. The ground work for every important plot point and supposed twist is clearly sign-posted; a faulty vacuum cleaner which becomes significant towards the end of the second half, for example, is prominent at the start of the first.

And yet… for a show that’s largely about sex, there’s little or no rude language – bar a few occasions when it’s left to the audience’s dirty minds. More, the writers clearly believe that the very idea of old people having wild, injury-inducing sex is intrinsically, laugh-out-loud hilarious. Which, on this occasion at least, it would appear to be – although one guesses that’s down to the hard work of the cast rather than the script itself. Bell, in particular, excels in turning her cut-out character into a living, breathing person, while there’s real sympathy for Porretta’s Olive as she recounts her largely sexless marriage and the fleeting romance she enjoyed with a Scout Master called Arthur.

It’s in showing what these women – and, by implication, most – have had to put up from belligerent, boring or unfaithful men, that the play offers any depth or meaning. It’s a shame that it so nearly hides this beneath the kind of kinky-dressed low-rent cabaret that Les Dawson and The Two Ronnies would have immediately dismissed out of hand.

Reviews by Paul F Cockburn

Multiple Venues

Nests

★★★
Dundee Rep Theatre / Macrobert Arts Centre

The Yellow on the Broom

★★★
Underbelly, Bristo Square

Tom Neenan: It's Always Infinity

★★★★
Assembly George Square Studios

Police Cops in Space

★★★★★
Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre

Rik Carranza: Still a Fan

★★★★
Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre

Marmite

★★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

This heart warming, feel-good comedy will have you rolling in the aisles and smiling every time you answer the phone!

Gladys, Elsie and Olive are three cleaning ladies who are about to be put out to pasture by their overzealous office manager Dave. Feeling they have little chance of gaining employment elsewhere, the ladies have to boost their falling income.

A chance wrong number rings into the office and gives them a great idea - why not run a Sex Chat Line? After all, their age and appearance won’t matter on the telephone and providing they can keep this a secret from their boss, they could be onto a winner! Needless to say, things don’t go entirely according to plan.

This heart warming, feel-good comedy will have you rolling in the aisles and smiling every time you answer the phone! Directed by Leah Bell who injects a fresh and lively approach coupled with her own unique style.

Starring Crissy Rock (hit TV series’ Benidorm, I’m a Celebrity), Leah Bell (comedienne and actress), Dolores Porretta Brown (stage and TV actress) and introducing Lee Brannigan.

Guidance – adult themes.