Although it begins with a funeral (and there’s another before the evening’s out), there’s some very funny dialogue in this account of  recently widowed Joyce, finally set free from the constraints of a marriage reluctantly entered into forty five years previously.

Whilst her controlling mother (Helen Ryan’s opinionated Pearl) now expects her to make weekly visit to her dead husband’s grave, and her 42 year-old daughter Fiona takes it for granted that she’ll want to up her childcare commitment, Joyce has ideas of her own.

First there’s the purchase of a defiantly red coat from Bond Street, then visits to the opera, but it isn’t long before she’s having tea at the Ritz with a young stripper as she throws off the family obligations threatening to hem her in all over again.

Although not all Joyce’s encounters ring true, much of what Wooley touches on will hit various nerves across the generations as Tracy-Ann Oberman’s materialistic, cash-strapped Fiona (married to a lazy out-of-work musician and expecting their unplanned third child) becomes increasingly less sympathetic with her frequent requests for financial help from the bank of mum.

And with Maureen Lipman giving a fine central performance as respectable, reliable, suburban Joyce, disconcertingly rejuvenated and turning into a latter day Merry Widow, Terry Johnson’s enjoyable production proves both entertaining and mildly provocative.

Hampstead, Eton Avenue, NW3 3EU
Tube | Swiss Cottage
Until 12th January 


Photo: Manuel Harlan