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Treating Odette review at Upstairs at the Gatehouse, London – ‘warm and witty’

Charlotte Peak and Jessica Boyden in Treating Odette at Upstairs at the Gatehouse, London Charlotte Peak and Jessica Boyde in Treating Odette at Upstairs at the Gatehouse, London
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Jennifer Selway’s three-hander Treating Odette is a treat to watch. Inspired by her friend Patricia Law who worked in an exclusive Mayfair beauty salon where the clients included the actor Anna Neagle as well as Odette Churchill, the Resistance heroine portrayed by Neagle in the 1950 film Odette.

The conversations that Selway imagines for the two radiate with humour and warmth in John Plews’ tender and intimate production.

The pastel-hued set evokes the epitome of glamour (for those who could afford it) and the illusion of a brave new post-war world for young women.

Red Gray is an absolute delight as seemingly carefree film star Anna Neagle, a jolly nice girl from West Ham made good, and at 45, considered past her ingenue prime.

The inquisitive Patricia (Charlotte Peak) is every inch the immaculate modern career girl with a glamorous job in which she is treated like a favourite niece by her favourite client, even if what she really longs for is marriage and children.

Jessica Boyde makes a superb, dry-witted Odette who survived unimaginably harrowing experiences (sanitised in the film so that the public wouldn’t be put off) and finds herself mortified at being treated like a celebrity.

There could be something grotesque contrasting the horrors of Ravensbruck with pampering in Mayfair. But these three characters show that rituals of beauty aren’t just about overpriced face cream but can sometimes form part of a healing process, one requiring trust in other women.

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A warm and witty tribute to friendship, fortitude and facials