Flowerpot Women is a charming, laugh out loud, funny and poignant tale of two ill matched friends Eddie and Garland. In a homage to ‘Grey Gardens’ (Big Edie and Little Edie) and Bette and Joan’s ‘Whatever happened to Baby Jane?’ Dora Colquhoun and Izzie Major have perfectly captured in this 30 minute performance the key hallmarks of female friendships: companionship, laughter, tears, and the acceptance of eccentricity, ultimately love.

Is it a good year for the garden? It might be if Eddie hadn’t stolen all of Garland’s produce. Is it a hat day? It might be if Eddie would cease tormenting Garland and allow her the joy of a veiled hat! And here we see the joyful torment of one woman against another.

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The perfectly timed postman delivers a letter that sharply brings the outside world to Eddie and Garland’s garden. It is not a hat day declares Garland, ‘them outside say it’s a mask day”. And in that one line, I am abruptly brought out of the joy that is the Bluecoat Gardens, and the spell and magic of live theatre is broken, and I am sharply reminded of the world we now live in.

The slap in the face reminder tells me that I am extremely lucky to be attending live theatre, and watching this brilliant vignette is a rear treat in a year of dark theatre nights. Such is the energy of this piece of theatre I am quickly drawn back into the unfolding story as Eddie and Garland launch into an original song ‘Keep on Keepin’ on’ accompanied by quirky dancing and broom playing, it is hilarious and I am smiling and once again the magic of live performance has me in its grip. How do we ‘keep on keepin’ on?’ in a year when social events, gigs and theatres have gone silent? And why is art, performance and gathering together so important?

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Humanity is based on stories, we share our lives through the stories we tell each other. Every interaction we have is a way of sharing the tiny moments of our lives. The chat at the bus stop, the random conversation at the bar, the coffee break at work, friends and family at the dinner table, tiny moments where we share the story of our day. We have a real and visceral need to be seen, heard, and valued. We know that loneliness is a killer, and the pain of ‘social distancing’ cuts to the very core of who we are. Wired, ultimately to connect.

Eddie may dream of escape from the garden but ultimately the audience knows that much as she longs for something new the garden is her home, and Garland is her anchor. Colquhoun and Major have captured here in this element of script writing the joy of female friendships, how to ‘push each other’s buttons’ and how the shared
history binds them. We all need an anchor, a safe place to return to. I hope like millions of others we can return to our safe place, not a new normal or even the old normal. But a place where we can share our stories, be seen and heard, and valued.

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My dream would be to see Eddie and Garland in the theatre sharing their story, gaining loud and raucous applause and laughter. Sadly, I fear the theatre will not see the lights back for some time yet. This outdoor setting sadly ran for only 4 performances. As we go into winter, I can only hope that ‘mask days’ are eventually replaced with ‘hat days’.

Finally, a note to the Arts Council England. Money well spent, more please.

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