After making waves upstairs at the Royal Court's with stunning, sellout Village Bike, Penny Skinner is certainly a 'Most Promising Playwright' (and has two awards to prove it). Now she's back, and has moved to the big main stage, which is decked out with a slick revolving set by designer Es Devlin.
Fans of the eloquently feminist playwright won't be disappointed by Linda. Penelope Skinner has previously said "gender and sexual politics are things I'm interested in - it's just that's what happens to be in my life. If the world evolved beyond those things, so would I" and this new play tackles the pressure on women to stay young.
With a glittering career, loyal husband, trim figure and lovely daughters, 55-year-old Linda lives the modern fairytale. As ambasssador for a cosmetics brand that champions the beauty within, she's 'changing the world, one girl at a time'. But her next professional challenge, to overwrite the stigma of female ageing and make women over 50 visible and vibrant, soon becomes a personal battle. Catty colleagues, a damaged daughter and a wannabe-rockstar husband threaten and undermine her role as mother, wife and business woman and the perfect life crumbles. But Linda has not got this far to be relegated to the sidelines and silenced.
After the blow of Hollywood star Kim Catrall pulling out of the starring role just one week before first previews, replacement Noma Dumezweni is a sensation. Magnetic and mighty, she brings depth to the downfall, spanning roaring rage to bitter regret. The performance is especially remarkable considering Dumezweni took on the role so recently, and still had to occasionally check the script.
The play is at its best in Linda's monologues. They pulsate the kind of polemical power that threatens to start a revolution from the stage, yet there's nothing preachy or abstract about Skinner's treatment of the very pertinent issues faced by women. This is a vivid, complex and warmly witty plight that entertains as it enlightens — and never neatens, consoles or attempts a solution.
At times the threads of narrative are a little messy, and the secondary characters are tepid in comparison to the titular Linda, but the eloquence, energy and humour with which Skinner creates this central character more than makes up for it. You forgive moments of clumsiness because there is so much to enthral. This is the kind of meaty, mighty writing that pops off the page. The combination of the snazzy set and Micheal Longhurst's pacy production make for a spectacle, but the value of the play is in the palpable and pertinent passion of the writing.
|What||Linda, Royal Court Theatre review|
|Where||Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, London, SW1W 8AS | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Sloane Square (underground)|
26 Nov 15 – 09 Jan 16, 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM
|Website||Click here to book via the Royal Court Theatre site|