Tamsin on the Verge

The Playhouse Theatre is now hosting a boisterous adaptation of Almodóvar's film: Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Complete with its own musical score, this impression of Madrid in the 1980s becomes surprisingly convincing in a 1882 building. Flashes of neon pink, green and blue flood the stage to announce the local colour.
Camille Beglin

Spanish director Almodóvar's 1988 film tells the story of three women about to lose it. Pepa (Tamsin Greig) is an actress on the search for her disappeared lover. She will gradually have to face his wife (Haydn Gwynne), child and new mistress.


Tamsin Greig makes her appearance barefoot, in a red nightie: let the breakdown begin. Her drawn look matches her character's distress, while the actress' stiff hand movements come through as distracting. However, all is forgotten when she intones her first song: 'Lie to me'. Tamsin's voice is a revelation: ringing with emotion and completely overpowering.


New to this genre, it took The Archers' Debbie Aldridge a full year to train her voice. Tamsin described to us the "look of surprise, mixed with fear, horror and shame" of her children throughout her vocal exercises at home. She adds: "I will continue doing musicals only if my children allow me to."


As she embodies the desperate and betrayed Pepa, Tamsin adds her own touch to Carmen Maura's performance in the film. "I am different from the movie character from the fact that I am more angry", says the actress. She also acknowledges that she has learned a lot from fellow performers. Indeed, looks of complicity link the actors as they bow to the audience.


Her co-star and rival in Almodóvar's psychedelic story, is none other than Haydn Gwynne. After her award-winning role as Margaret Thatcher in The Audience, she makes an astounding Lucía. Haydn artfully shares her character's emotions with the audience, reaping fascination and applause. As an abandoned wife she is both endearing and comical.


Other than the borderline-cliché Matador, director Bartlett Sher plays skilfully with the Spanish scenery and does justice to this Almodóvar classic. Caitlin Ward's eye-catching costumes and David Yazbek's music complete his interpretation. Between bright yellow tights and guitar serenades, Picasso jokes and wooden ducks, it is a greatly entertaining show.