Downstage Theatre
March 26-April 11 | Reviewed by Melody Nixon

THE RETURN SEASON of My Brilliant Divorce at Downstage is bolstered by previous reviews which praise the show almost ubiquitously, except for Lumičre’s own gentle criticism of course. Lynn Freeman described Ginette McDonald’s performance in the first run of My Brilliant Divorce as “brilliant, McDonald,” and in this run the praise still does hold up. It is McDonald’s portrayal of every-woman divorcee Angela Kennedy Lipsky that gives this show its broad appeal. The disaster-ridden divorcee is an English version of the Americana novel Eat Pray Love’s hapless Liz; and the show has the same best selling, low and loud, humour and anguish-laden grace.

McDonald is commendable for her continuity, and her dry tone of doubt and jaded notions of life and happiness do not become repetitious. New refrains and jokes bolster a light narrative, and give the show a mostly stand-up flavour, which is not above cruel jokes about midgets that should have probably been left in the bad Eddie Murphy movies of the eighties, because they are actually pretty offensive. Most of it hits home with the mixed crowd (less grey hair than usual, even) and the men laugh too, which is positive. “Hair – some, teeth – own” comes the recognizable diagnosis of a match in old age that measures up to be mostly okay.

I was plagued throughout the first half of My Brilliant Divorce with one simple question: will McDonald’s character manage to step out her prescribed woman-wife-daughter roles? The answer, sadly no, not at all. The show revels in roles, stereotypes – gendered, racial, age-related – and they are not unpicked but rather upheld like trophies by the end. Lipsky may not have ended up a trophy wife but her Aran sweater wearing suitor is prince charming remade for middle age.

While the two hour show is a feat of endurance and there was a large amount of – mostly flippant – material to cover, McDonald has a tendency to hurry through the scene changes and miss opportunities for inflexion. I felt the pace could be slowed somewhat to allow greater nuance and pause for thought, on the part of the audience as well as performer.

And on a final note of personal gripe: why exactly did graphic designers The Alchemist have to go for hot pink in the programme and promotional material? Is hot pink the one colour that will hereby define anything remotely, distantly, vaguely feminine? Are women to be left with the legacy of hot pink as the colour of choice for the rest of our earthly existence?

Yes, such are the multi-layered trials women of this age must face. Good on McDonald for at least getting out there and bringing us a story we can all relate to (or believe we might at some future, somewhat taste-less point in our lives), through her solid and honestly performed humour.