Saturday, September 30

Baggy Bra – The Squad House, Stockport

Meet Barb. Barb loves bras. Her daughter designs and makes them. Together they sell them to grateful women, keen to have something comfortable, stylish and well fitted to wear each day. From Barb’s little shop they welcome women in need of advice, support and a proper fitting.

Starting in the bar of this great new venue, Barb (Sian Parry-Williams) welcomes the audience into the space where cabaret style seating awaits, glitter sparkles, Welsh flags proudly adorn, and we enter her world of all things mammary.

Parry-Williams takes immediate control of the action and the audience takes to her instantly. A well-rounded character with sharp wit and enormous warmth, she shatters the fourth wall conspiratorially and instantly gains our loyalty, which remains throughout.

The play itself is the tale of how Barb and her daughter Elle (Devan Woodward) cope when life challenges their status quo. Barb’s shop, like many across the country, is struggling. High overheads, low turnover and a property developer banging on her door; she is torn between having an asset to pass on to her child and following her own dreams of retirement. Elle is torn between her loyalty to her mother and the previous generations of women in her family and flying the nest to follow her own dreams.

The strength of the piece is Parry-Williams. She carries it. A talented comedienne with excellent timing and audience connection, the action, the pace and the tone all work around her very successfully. She has one of those comic deliveries where she could read the blandest of material and you would be rolling about laughing. She is supported well by her fellow cast members and there was a good rapport amongst the ensemble but the material itself lost its focus and pace in the later half of the show. It’s attempts to highlight to women the importance of good breast care and regular monitoring work well without preaching in any way, some of the sub text flows through successfully, but the main thrust of the quandaries these women face and their lack of communication and honesty about what their own needs are, I would suggest need some re-working. When a piece of drama establishes itself as slapstick it needs to retain it and I felt Baggy Bra slid into something closer to naturalism and in doing so lost some of its punch.

All in all, I enjoyed this performance which is part of the Greater Manchester Fringe Festival, and I was really thrilled to visit The Squad House, a new venue and positive addition to the Greater Manchester theatre scene. The welcome was warm, the bar was buzzing, and the performance space was great. I will look forward to another trip there very soon.

Reviewer: Lou Kershaw

Reviewed: 27th July 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.