Bazaar and Rummage

Gresham's School Auden Theatre, Holt

> Gresham's School Auden Theatre, Holt

As a former social worker, I confess to a rising anxiety as I left the safety of my home for a play about a trainee social worker and a do-gooder volunteer who try to help a group of agoraphobic women. I'm glad to say the social worker turned up trumps and the all-female cast was superb, but the play itself, like your average rummage sale, was a mixed bag.

Three long-term agoraphobics are dragged from their homes by Fliss and Gwenda (the social worker and the do-gooder) to hold a jumble sale. Feminist Fliss (dungarees of course) and evangelical Christian Gwenda (bri-nylon) inevitably clash over how best to help Katrina (flamboyant ex-singing pro), Bell-Bell (mousy housewife) and Margaret (mouthy working-class single parent) deal with their debilitating neuroses.

It's never easy to make comedy out of mental illness and here the jokes are often too crass and the characters too stereotyped for the humour to work. And the switch from poking fun at the women's neurotic behaviour in Act One to hearing their devastating personal stories in Act Two is too great a leap. But writer Sue Townsend's drama makes some important points about how women have been oppressed in the home and further oppressed by a narrow medical model which can only offers pills as a solution for abuse.

Smoothly directed by Freddy Strong, this latest production by the Cromer and Sheringham Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society features fine acting and singing performances and continues until Saturday, October 30.

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