Reasons to be grumpy
Jenny Eclair at The Corn Exchange, Newbury on Saturday, October 23
SHE may be the archetypical Grumpy Old Woman - having appeared as a regular talking head on the BBC Two series as well as writing the spin-off stage show - but at The Corn Exchange Jenny Eclair proved that she was a trooper by filling in for her missing support act by extending her show with a surprisingly successful question-and-answer session.
Having finally turned 50 early this year - which makes me question the validity of her appearing in the first series of Grumpy Old Women back in 2005 - Eclair is actually far from grumpy, approaching the indignities of middle aged womanhood with a cheery disposition that actually makes the years of “the change” a slightly less terrifying prospect.
Eclair’s core audience is, by her own assessment, “women of a certain age”, whom she praised for making the effort to attend the show. “You buy these tickets ages ago, then on the night you think ‘do I have to? There’s X Factor on the telly”. However, she is no strident misandrist, - despite being the focus of an academic paper discussing the politics of stand-up comedy from a feminist perspective. Her language was often fruity and her terms descriptive as she reminised on a youth mispent and now long passed, the men in the audience appeared to find plenty to laugh along with.
She may be struggling with various age-related afflictions, but Eclair made little use of the on-stage sofa for its traditional function, instead wriggling and cantering around the stage with impressive energy. One impairment was put to great use as she demonstrated the advantages of deafness when dealing with hecklers. And the onset of the perimenopause has given Eclair, always known for her jokes regarding menstruation, one final classic quip on the subject, in which a comparison to London buses comes into play.
Question-and-answer sessions can often be awkward affairs, but Eclair’s ability to make the audience feel comfortable, and the honesty and wit in her answers regarding family life and the positive impact of Grumpy Old Women on her career, made it feel less like padding and more like a heartwarming way to round off the show. So much so that Eclair appeared to decide against finishing with the usual encore, a Lady Gaga routine presumably based on the Grumpy Old Women’s Let’s Dance For Sports Relief performance. Never mind, at least we got to see the Gaga-style hat, fashioned out of a doily, part of a yoga mat and Barbie pony. If Lady Gaga is as entertaining in 25 years time as Eclair, she’ll be doing alright.
- First published in Newbury Weekly News, Thursday, October 28, 2010