"Well-written and acted but overlong"
by Deborah Klayman for remotegoat on 14/06/10

Three disparate groups of women descend on an exclusive wedding boutique, 'Vestido De Moda', in search of discounted dresses and free booze. Through the interaction between the friends and clashes between the groups, the audience learns about each character and their complicated relationships, and as the wine flows the revelations get more and more extreme.

As a piece of new writing, Women On Wine has a lot to offer. In this, Shakella Dedi's first play, the characters are rounded, the dialogue snappy, and it touches on some important topics such as motherhood, sexual health, domestic violence and alcoholism. Characters which initially appear to be stereotypes are turned on their heads, and their often surprising revelations challenge the assumptions we make about women based on their class and background.

The main problem is that, although the content is good, the piece is overlong and would benefit from some serious cuts. The character of Ms De Moda, a narrator of sorts, seems to serve solely to cover scene changes and offer some light humour. The role is surplus to requirement and adds little to the piece as she rarely interacts with the other characters and slows the pace of the production. Without that character the piece would have a more seamless flow, and stop the audience from disengaging from the main plotline. Currently running at over two hours, WOW could easily be trimmed to a punchy 90 minutes, which would give it more pace and power. Additionally, there are times when too much is happening on stage at one time, meaning some very good moments are lost as the audience's attention is divided between the groups of women.

Played by an entirely female cast, the performance standards are high and the interactions both funny and truthful. Notable performances come from Dedi as streetwise Crystal and Jennifer Nicholas as Lesley, who appears to be little more than a chav, but shows her true colours and aspirations as the play goes on. Clare Buckingham and Victoria Strachan make a superb team as a pair of uptight, upper-class women with frustrations that run just under the surface, and the rest of the cast bring strong personalities and characterisations to the play, making all the relationships believable and interesting.

Already a good piece of theatre, with the right cuts and stronger direction Women On Wine is on track to be a modern and engaging play with strong, positive roles for women that many audiences will enjoy.

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