views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Just a Housewife
The Rabbit Hole
12th July 2014


Photography © Leila Bundy

Increasingly it feels like if you have a pair of ovaries, you're expected to be a good wife, mother and highly successful CEO, all at the same time. Modern day superwomen like Karren Brady are just as much role models as they are a source of major guilt. If we choose to focus on doing just one thing, does that make us a failure? Does it make us unfulfilled?

In her new one-woman show Just a Housewife, West End actress Pippa Winslow tackles the homemaker label head on. Her own acting CV shows a wealth of experience stretching all the way back to the 90s, but if you look closely, there's a small gap and that's when she took time out to have children. Just a Housewife isn't entirely factual, it's only inspired by Winslow's story to date, but as she talks about treading the boards in New York, you can imagine how hard it must have been to give that up and find yourself redefined by a label you never thought would apply to you.

Each of the 22 songs in this cabaret style show feels chosen with the utmost of care to fit into the semi-autobiographical narration and to showcase Winslow's fabulous voice. The Rabbit Hole is a small, dark, converted basement space with such low ceilings that she can only just about stand tall without hunching over. A performer of Winslow's calibre should be singing in a much grander space, but the setting makes this feel almost like a secret gig and therefore something quite special.

Songs from musical heavyweights like Andrew Lloyd Webber, Sondheim and the Gershwin brothers all feature, but there aren't that many obvious choices in the set list. Some personal highlights are Los Pinguinos, Lime Jello Marshmallow and Let's Call The Whole Thing Off, which Winslow tackles with perfect comedic timing and support from musical director Andrew Hopkins, who delights by chiming in with a bit of Welsh.

Over the course of the 100 minutes including interval, Winslow takes us through the highs and lows of trying to make it as a an actor, meeting someone and settling down, from the glamour of Broadway, the horrors of dating ("you know STI guy, right?") to becoming a mother, or as she puts it, "an item location specialist". We're aware that stage director Evan Ensign is manipulating us for maximum impact, but when Winslow leans in towards us, we truly believe she's sharing another juicy secret and forget the fictional aspect to the material.

Never mind just a "housewife", Winslow is one of those women who effortlessly exude glamour. You know the kind, you either want to be her or be with her, she has a wonderfully dry sense of humour and plenty of charisma. The rapport between Winslow and Hopkins feels genuine, with a lovely warmth between the pair helping to bring a really fun energy to the room, particularly in The Laziest Gal in Town. It looks like they're having a ball performing together, and that's one part of the show that I'd like to think is completely true.

The set design is fairly simple; for the most part it's just a piano and chair. Whilst Winslow deserves a bigger audience, Just a Housewife needs the intimacy of a smaller venue. I could easily see the show returning to Ye Olde Rose and Crown for a longer run, or perhaps transferring somewhere like The Crazy Coqs or even Jermyn Street Theatre. Any bigger than that and the confessional nature to the show wouldn't carry as well.

For now, the housewife is taking a well-earned break, but more dates are planned soon. Winslow is nothing short of a treasure; she entertains, she moves and she does it all with a timeless elegance. This show demands another run - hopefully it won't be long until the tour recommences.

Just a Housewife ran from 9th to 12th July 2014 at the Rabbit Hole. More London dates will be announced soon.

Nearest tube station: Hampstead (Northern)

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