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3 Women review at Trafalgar Studios, London – ‘a clumsy study of modern womanhood’

The cast of 3 Women at Trafalgar Studios, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton

Katy Brand’s debut play, 3 Women, is set on the eve of a wedding. Three generations of the same family (grandmother, mother and daughter) are holed up in a beige-on-beige hotel room for some supposed female bonding time.

Each of the characters is clearly intended to be representative of their respective age groups. The oldest, Eleanor (Anita Dobson) is immaculately attired and seethes with resentment.

Her daughter, Suzanne (Debbie Chazen) has rebelled by becoming someone who buys her clothes in shops that sell crystals. Fumbling through social interactions, she feels the bite of Eleanor’s barbed comments acutely.

The play runs into insurmountable difficulties in its depiction of the 18-year-old Laurie (Maisie Richardson-Sellers). Pitched as the post-gender millennial student, Laurie functions as a walking information broadcast on trans rights, Tinder, test tube babies and much more.

It’s a remarkably crass representation of ‘young people nowadays’, and one that walks a fine line between gently poking fun and being a boorishly misjudged and ill-informed caricature.

Richardson-Sellers’ performance is also perplexing, with her continual touchy-feely demonstrations of physical affection towards her mother tipping over into something bizarrely sexualised.

The saving grace of Michael Yale’s production is Dobson’s performance as Eleanor. Her clipped delivery and decidedly British passive aggression makes the flawed, vulnerable grandmother by far the most believable and interesting person on stage. She just about saves an otherwise dispiriting portrait of modern womanhood.

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Katy Brand’s debut play is a clumsy study of three female characters from different generations