My decision to go to Ladies Who Lunch was purely based on my having written a poem once (a ‘pantoum’ as it happens) with the same title. This play, then, was pretty much what the title implies, except that this was actually ‘high tea,’ and the lunch-date was not a regular occurrence.
As each character entered, it quickly transpired that these ‘ladies’ who were once work-colleagues had not seen one another for thirty years. They had a lot of news to catch up on, plus a lot of bitterness about how their lives had worked out over the years.
Excluding the waiter, who was immediately seen as a potential toy-boy by the first character to enter – Sally – the women were all seemingly wealthy, and somewhat ‘posh’ – or as we now say, ‘entitled.’ They were mostly retired pensioners (although trying not to admit to the ‘old age’ part of OAP) apart from one exception when one of the women arrives with her middle-aged daughter.
While this is an uncomfortable addition to the party, it does give opportunity to explore the generational differences in the women’s attitudes to child-bearing and parenthood. This is the general gist of the conversation, and while the writing fails the Bechdel test in terms of each woman’s story being wholly dependent on the relationship to their husbands, it at least gives a good airing of women’s issues among the older generation – a point that the writer, Niamh Collins, was keen to create.
Unlike a structured poem (or pantoum) the drama lacked form, and some of the longer speeches rambled a little. Some of the women give Lorena (Nicola Samosa) a hard time for her child-care decisions – putting life and career first – and it feels strange that it’s not her mother but the bitter and sweary Sally (Esther Levin) who comes to her rescue.
Sally’s bigger contention is not that they have created a selfish generation regarding their offspring, but rather that none of the women offered her the hand of friendship when her husband had an affair and left her to bring up her child, alone. As the plays drifts to an end, and characters leave (bizarrely, Lorena remains after her mother goes without a farewell) there is a feeling that little has been resolved over lunch.
At the end of the play, after a weak parting shot from the waiter, Sally remains at the table, attempting to complete the crossword puzzle in her paper. That the audience is left with lots of questions is no bad thing, and while there is nothing outstanding about any of the performances, each actor – while much younger than the parts they play – brings a realism to these often unheard voices.
You can see Ladies Who Lunch at Greenside @ Infirmary St from 7th – 16th August at 10:05. For tickets, please visit www.edfringe.com