Theatre review: The Flannelettes at the King’s Head

The Flannelettes. Picture: Chris Tribble

The Flannelettes. Picture: Chris Tribble - Credit: Archant

This moving tale of abuse towards women was marred by a few loose lines, says David Winskill.

Since the company were already several days into their run of this world premiere by Richard Cameron, there was no excuse for widespread line fluffing: an affliction that got in the way of some wonderfully intense theatre.

Set in a Yorkshire pit village, the action takes place in a women’s refuge and outside the local Working Men’s Club. The Flannelettes are a Mowtown tribute group starring refuge manager Brenda, her visiting niece Delie and the lugubrious George. Any tubby bloke in a powder blue nylon frock, sequins and a wig will get a laugh, but over two hours we are taken to some horribly dark places inhabited by taboo issues of the physical, mental and sexual abuse of women. In the background lurks 40 years of decline in a village that, as Geoff Leesley’s George puts it, has been “a community on its arse since the pit shut down”. One of the biggest cheers of the evening came as the sell-out Islington intelligentsia audience spotted his STILL HATE THATCHER t-shirt.

All the cast delivered convincing naturalistic performances; however, the standout was Emma Hook and her portrayal of “22 going on 12” Delie. A simple lass (OK, learning difficulties) with a simple view of the world, she is cocooned by auntie Brenda, George and others, but falls into bad company. Very bad company.

When Delie, in a chillingly matter of fact way, tells Roma (another victim played brilliantly by the child-like Holly Campbell) in sordid detail how she was abused it was one of the most brutally moving moments I have experienced in a theatre.

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Cameron has explored the experiences, motives and desolation surrounding abuse. He has also highlighted and scorned the legal and social obstacles to confronting, and prosecuting those who see it as their right to use women and why these women find it so hard to get others to believe their stories.

The script needs tightening as several moments are lost and plot lines left loose. Nonetheless, this is an important contribution to the debate: social workers, police and the judiciary should watch this as part of their training.

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Rating: 3/5 stars

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