Created and performed by an all-female ensemble that’s part of Diverse City, a charity devoted to creating diversity in the arts, all performances of this show are British Sign Language interpreted, audio-described and relaxed. But ticking all these boxes does not necessarily make for a good show.
Mid Life is a devised piece about the experience of being a middle-aged woman. Telling the stories of older women is something theatre could do more of, but this production is hard work. The show consists of a series of sketches with no through narrative and emphasises the clichés about menopausal women, rather than examining them. The fourth-wall-breaking characters frequently suffer “memory loss” about what scene comes next or break out of a scene to mention they’re having a hot flush.
Is it meant to be about midlife or menopause? Is it about how black women’s narratives are sidelined? Or gay rights? Or death? It’s hard to tell, as the sketches include a bit of everything, but none of it really hits home.
Director and dramaturg Lucy Richardson seems to have tried to appease several different voices rather than imposing one vision. There are a few good moments. Jacqui Beckford erupts into a tempest-tossed monologue about the double-bind of being an “angry black woman” and Claire Hodgson, in the throes of palpitations and hot sweats, peers inside a suitcase saying: “I don’t want to look in it.” What’s inside? “My rage.”
Perhaps as a joke-filled one-woman show, this piece could have delivered something insightful about the female experience of midlife. As it is, this feels like a case of too many co-creators failing to create a coherent theatrical experience.