What Would Helen Mirren Do?, Anita Parry/parrymelia productions – Hill Street Theatre
**** (4 stars)
Most people will have at least one horrid memory of being forced to attend a ‘team building’ exercise, where reluctant volunteers are forced to sit in a circle and share information that is apparently meant to improve our skills, whether it be in employment or schooling. This is the situation that Susan Butterworth finds herself in at a management training course where she is asked absurdly irrelevant questions such as ‘If you were an animal, what animal would you be?’ and most importantly ‘Who is your idol?’ Susan searches her brain for a muse and settles on Helen Mirren, finding an unusual bout of inspiration from a popular actress.
Though obviously aimed at the middle aged single mother whose children have flown the nest, What Would Helen Mirren Do? is a tale of hope that can appeal to any age. Susan’s battle is now against her creepy co-workers and her own feelings of inadequacy since she has fulfilled her role as a mother, she has no idea how to enjoy the ‘me time’ she has been told she deserves. Anita Parry plays Susan beautifully, with passion that makes you feel for her and support her when considering what Helen Mirren would do in her situation; she steps out of the house in make up for the first time in years, feeling fully liberated.
Parry’s abilities as an actress does not end at Susan, the way in which she can switch between big characters such as dandruff ridden idiot Snowflake Steve and loudmouth Big Jean without any confusion whatsoever is rather impressive. This one woman show does well for what it is: a nice, quaint performance, and that is not to take away from Parry’s obvious talent. Though some young children were left a little bored and lost, the majority of the audience could empathise with Susan’s situation and showed this with supportive reactions.
I would not normally go for a one person show but this has encouraged me to be a little more open minded. I would highly recommend this show, if only to see Parry’s great performance as a whole cast of characters; she is truly an actress of high calibre.