Interview with Jenny Eclair
St David’s Hall
Friday 22 June, 7.30pm
THE nation’s favourite grouchy ladies are back with Grumpy Old Women to the Rescue at St David’s Hall on Friday 22 June!
Starting at 7.30pm, the Perrier Award-winning comedian and writer Jenny Eclair joins fellow comics and actresses Dillie Keane and Lizzie Roper for another evening of hilarious grumblings about everyday life.
Fed up with flogging their guts out and always having to be in charge, the cheerfully miserable trio have put their knobbly old feet up in glorious retirement – free at last to practise their extreme colouring-in, ukelele orchestra and novelty fudge-making...
But with the world in a bigger mess than ever before, is there anything that can tempt them off their backsides to unleash their superpowers and once more come to the rescue?!
Neil Collins chats with Jenny Eclair about this brand new show that’s 90 minutes of full-fat, batteries included comedy from the mistresses of grump!
You last performed at St David’s Hall with the Grumpy Old Women on the Fifty Shades of Beige tour two years ago. You must get asked this when you visit every city on tour, but do have any particular memories of performing in Cardiff over the years?
Not any that immediately spring to mind, but I do like the St David’s Hall backstage area as they have beds in the dressing rooms, which is always a joy! And there’s a hotel we stayed in quite near the John Lewis, which is very useful.
These gigs tend to be hit and run incidents though, as we travel quite a long distance and then we’re moving on. We do Cardiff, and then the day after that we’re in Swansea and then we’re in Billingham. I do try to get to an art gallery, so if I do have time in Cardiff or Swansea that’s what I’ll be digging out.
Grumpy Old Women was initially a hugely successful TV series, and bestselling books soon followed. Since 2005, it has been converted into a several stage shows touring nationwide with various line-ups. What makes Grumpy Old Women live onstage so enduringly popular?
Firstly, they’re all very different shows. This is Grumpy 4, which is totally different to Grumpy 3 and that’s different to 1 and 2, so it’s important to dispel any myth that anyone might have that this is the same show that’s been touring for years.
They are stand-alone shows with different props, sets, costumes and casts. I love doing the Grumpy shows as they very much give me a break from being by myself on stage as I do a lot of solo shows, and have just finished two and a half years of How to Be a Middle Aged Woman. I started that in 2015, so it was really nice to get away from my solo work and watch some other people onstage, and they do genuinely make me laugh. There’s still some bits that I’ve heard about 40 times, but they’re still making me really laugh. You learn from other people too. The two of them (Dillie & Lizzie) have skills that I don’t have in that they can both sing. It’s been really nice to see an audience react in the way that we’ve seen.
In the promotional artwork, you’re Wonder Woman whilst Dillie is Batman and Lizzie is Superman. Was there a battle over who got which costume?
In the show we’re all superheroes, and I’m Menopause Woman; Dillie is Hatchet Face and Lizzie is HRT Girl. The promo pictures were taken before the tour, so we knew what the premise was but the details weren’t nailed down by that point.
I read that you don’t consider yourself a natural ad-libber, but I’m assuming that a tour of this nature has an element of spontaneity where every night is a little bit different?
I’ve become much better than I used to be. I used to be so terrified of going so far off track that I could never get back and it just all turning into mush, but for my last solo show I forced myself to do 10 minutes of ad-lib every night, and that kind of broke the fear of it over two and a half years.
With Grumpy, there’s always stuff going wrong so there’s always an element of ad-lib. I had gastroenteritis in the Theatre Royal and threw up in front of 800 people – in the wings fortunately – so the girls had to cover me for that and I had to then come back on with sick on my shoe, so stuff happens but thankfully the three of us are very close onstage. In 38 years of gigging, that’s actually the only time I’ve thrown up – you deal with whatever ball is thrown at you!
How has female comedy changed since you started?
It’s different for me now in that I’m a 58-year-old woman and my material is about that. I’m not a 22-year-old coming up through the ranks any more. I think it’s probably still tough, but I think it’s better, easier and healthier.
I think that comedy is in a really good state. I think the balancing up of women, and women getting more power and spotlight has been for the absolute good of comedy. It’s taken some of the nastiness out of it and the laddish, rubbish part of it and the bullying. I think it’s been a real force for good.
What was it like becoming the first solo winner of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival’s Perrier Comedy Award in 1995?
Oh, well that’s a long time ago! I don’t really give it much thought to be honest, but it was great and really good for me at the time and it’s been a lovely thing to have after my name. I think my work since though has spoken for itself. It’s not about getting one thing, it’s about doing it over and over and over again and touring and touring. It is lovely to get awards and that sort of thing, but that all pales to nothing. It’s what you do in the moment in front of an audience that counts.
What else are you working on at the moment?
When I finish this tour, I’ve got a Radio 4 series that I need to finish off. I’m also contributing to a play which is a bit vague at the moment, and then I’m going to sit down and do some writing.
Thanks very much Jenny, and best of luck with the tour!
“Still gorgeously grumpy…this latest tour breathes new life into some much-loved menopausal jokes…Expect a party!” The Times ****
“Jaw-dropping one-liners” The Stage
Buy 6 or more tickets (please contact Box Office on 029 2087 8444)
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