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Women of an Uncertain Age
The Canal Café
18th November 2014


Maggie Bourgein and Flip Webster

Photography provided by Flip and Maggie

Anyone afraid of growing old? What about growing old disgracefully? Well, Flip Webster and Maggie Bourgein certainly are not afraid of doing either. Their comedy show Women of an Uncertain Age does its best to prove that no matter their age, girls just wanna have fun. Convention be damned, they're not ready to give up partying just yet.

Webster and Bourgein have clearly set out to have a good time, along the way stopping to challenge the prejudices they feel exist towards over-40 funny women, such as themselves. As a 20-something man, I'm not sure how valid my opinion on this can really be, but I certainly think there are comediennes of this "uncertain age" who are already well-represented in the mainstream. Brand, Woods, Walters, Quirke, Toksvig, Tate, French, Saunders, even Dench and Mirren; not to mention Joan Rivers. I could go on. But I must admit, the majority of mainstream comedy does seem to be male-dominated.

This is an attempt to address the imbalance, with Webster and Bourgein putting together gags about growing old but staying young, such as in The XX Factor. They also bring up and ridicule the "social pressures in the media" in To Botox or Not to Botox, which makes me realise that these are pressures which weigh heavily on older - sorry, "less junior" - women as much as they do on teenagers. The comediennes aren't just out to crack a quick joke, they do also have a point to make and this comes across without being preachy.

The style is wonderfully varied; we are treated to singing (Get Ready for a Supreme Time), dancing (Up Front), physical comedy (Home Work) and even cooking (Flipissisma!). These all land well, but some audio-only sketches feel a little bit odd, and a little, well, pre-recorded. (I know for certain that Dame Jenni Murray from Radio 4's Women's Hour was not backstage with a microphone.) Though it's possible that these sketches were really only intended as filler to allow the performers enough time to deal with costume changes.

The two women cover such a wide range of material that we never quite know that to expect next, although the consistent quality does mean we're always looking forward to whatever is about to follow. The most unexpectedly funny scenes come in Changing Times, where there's a sudden switch to an 18th-century style discussion of the joys of the menopause. Nothing is off limits as far as Webster and Bourgein are concerned - they tackle hot flushes, memory loss and - sorry about this - moistness, all done in full Jane Austenesque period costume.

Webster's somewhat more physical style does upstage Bourgein, with this nowhere more evident than in The XX Factor. Bourgein lacks a little of her co-star's edginess when it comes to the modern satirical material, but she balances out Webster with better vocals when it comes to belting out a tune. There's definitely a synergy between the lively duo.

At less than an hour, Women of a Certain Age is a fast and good-natured take on those who are young at heart, yet perhaps slightly older in body. It's a concept which has been done before by others far more famous (see above for a list!) but there's no denying that Webster and Bougein still manage to make us laugh. The idea may be old, but the material still feels fresh.

Women of An Uncertain Age opened on 18th November and runs until 21st November, then from 26th to 30th November at the Canal Café.

Nearest tube station: Warwick Avenue (Bakerloo)

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