How to be an other woman, at the Gate Theatre Notting Hill, is director Natalie Abrahami’s sassy adaptation of Lorrie Moore’s book. Taking the form of a self-help text, four talented actresses perform all the roles in a story of adultery. With its 80s soundtrack, witty lines and theatrical inventiveness, this short production is the most fun you could have in an hour – without having an affair.
Samal Blak’s marvellous design has the ensemble presented as fantasising shop assistants. Abrahami directs (using Aline David’s choreography) a seamless dance of emotions and laughter. Each actress takes turns at the role of Charlene, a young woman obsessed with possessions and Emma Bovary. From the thrill of her new role as a mistress, to the inevitable heartbreak that results, the performances are all fantastic. Both Cath Whitefield and Ony Uhiara are hilarious when they play the married man Charlene falls for, Faye Castelow has some wonderful moments as her friend at work, and Samantha Pearl does especially well in making us feel for Charlene when the truth of the affair dawns on her.
Because, of course, having an affair isn’t fun at all. Charlene’s paranoia about the woman who is her rival is darkly comic but becomes bitter. Wives are compared to cockroaches who ‘travel in packs’. Increasingly isolated, Charlene realises she has moved from being an other women to another woman – a person she no longer recognises in the mirror.
Thankfully, since we have come to like her so much, unlike Madame Bovary, Charlene can ‘reclaim’ herself, lie a little about being fine, and move on. I guarantee you will leave the theatre wanting to hear more of her adventures.
Until 2 October 2010
Photo by Simon Kane
Written 2 September 2010 for The London Magazine