Edinburgh Fringe 2009
Susie Baxter’s Guily Women
Birch & Baxter Productions
Venue: Assembly at Mound Place
Charming tale about Muriel, cleaning lady to the affluent, clinically insane, plainly batty, totally sozzled, unintelligible and plain grumpy.
Muriel is a butterfly. Trouble is that she has been dormant now for 50 years. What can release her from her chrysalis? Does the key lie amongst the eight women for whom she cleans? And will the scheming, redundant erstwhile merchant banker plan to defraud one of these eight women of her worldly goods and chattels be thwarted? Well, this is no Inspector Morse mystery, so the answer to all of the above is a resounding “yes”.
But it doesn’t matter that we have a plot as full of cheese as a Welsh rarebit, this is simply a nicely spun tale about Muriel and her ladies, each of whom harbours a guilty secret or, in some cases several secrets. There’s the mad microbiologist from Morningside – posh Edinburgh to those of you not familiar with the term. There is a clinically insane Irish lass in charge of the local community centre, a Welsh DIY nut, Joyce with a Gorbal’s accent as thick as treacle, Margo, the Hull ballet teacher with a humour by-pass and Tracy from deepest Essex, the ex-wife of an ex-footballer, desperate for her 15 minutes in the limelight. Oh, don’t forget Patsy, doyen of the local amateur operatic and (very ) dramatic society, now into her 30th season playing the young female lead in whatever is the current production. And there’s also Mrs Elizabeth Double-Barrelled, or should that be Mrs Permanently-Pickled?
This rich tapestry of caricatures (for the women, Muriel excepted, are played thus rather than as characters) allows writer/performer Susie Baxter to display her impressive array of vocal talents to full effect. Well accentuated mannerisms augmented the chosen dialect of each of our ladies ensuring that it was clear who was who throughout the rapidly twisting and turning storyline. I particularly liked Tracy (or should that be “Traayycee”) from Essex and Mrs Double-Barrelled was delightfully aristocratic, vague and pleasantly sizzled. Reminded me of someone I know actually.
That was partly what this show was about – allowing you a chuckle when you recognized a friend being gently parodied in front of you. Writing and performing a seventy minute monologue on a bare stage with no props is quite a task but one that Susie Baxter appeared to manage with some ease. She held the attention of the mainly female audience (no doubt after those guilty secrets) by the sheer vigour and charismatic delivery of her tale. And it hardened my resolve never to employ a cleaning lady as well, given the byzantine, but largely innocent, chaos Muriel managed to create amongst her clientele. Now where did I leave my marigolds?