playing safe

Linda Hargreaves playing it safe. Pictures: Graeme Braidwood

Prime Time

The Door, Birmingham Rep


A time for a series of three monologues exploring the diverse experiences of women of retirement age.

It has been specially commissioned and written by three of Birmingham’s writers, Maeve Clarke, Rachael Mainwaring and Rochi Rampal. It is is the third part of Birmingham Repertory Theatre’s Women and Work trilogy.

Described by Janice Connolly (Performer and Artistic Director) as ‘looking at that very particular time in our working lives when we expect to reap the rewards of our sweat and toil and are turned out to pasture in our retirement years’

We are introduced to three different women on an open stage divided into three sections.

In ‘Playing it Safe’ on a raised section of the stage, surrounded by packing boxes is a woman played by Linda Hargreaves. She has struggled through life after becoming a teenage mom and supported her family by working on the production line of the local chocolate factory. She and her partner had planned to travel the world in their retirement, but before they could make it happen, her partner died.

all right 

Souad Faress is all right, Jack

In ‘I’m All Right, Jack’ sitting in her Bournville garden, sipping her wine is the character played by Souad Faress. A well off, professional woman who was pretty much forced into retirement due to her age despite being perfectly happy to continue working in the demanding world of business. She is plagued by guilt and feels that although she is unhappy she has to pretend to be enjoying her retirement for the sake of her nurse friend who can’t afford to retire.

‘Time to Shine’ introduces us to a grandmother, played by Janice Connolly, who is childminding her grandchild. The character reflects on how volunteering at the local theatre has helped her, in retirement, to achieve some of the missed opportunities of her youth.

This trio of women in the series of interwoven monologues voice their anxieties, frustrations, achievements and experiences on reaching 60. They highlight how the dream and ideology of retirement can be far from what was imagined. Retirement for some, far from being idyllic, can end up as a nightmare of constraints, including financial insecurity, ill health and stresses, whilst having to juggle the care of grandchildren, elderly relatives or friends, along with survival in a world that requires constant readjustments in the ‘golden years’ of their lives.

Although retirement can be a positive experience for many entering the third age of life, for some the experiences can be of loneliness, the loss of self worth, alienation and the feeling of being trapped in a situation over which they have no control. The hope of endless exotic vacations, hobbies, quality time with loved ones and so on often don’t materialise due to various external factors.


 Janice Connolly finds her time to shine

Also addressed in the monologues is the Government implemented change to increase the retirement age for women, (bringing it into line with men) and all the frustrations and difficulties that an unexpected and unplanned ‘move of the goalposts’ brings.

The thought provoking content and excellent narrative delivers not only the serious side of the subjects covered, but is liberally interspersed with humour to lighten the mood.

The three performers delivered their monologues with great skill and believability, whilst successfully reflecting some of the issues experienced by retired women with differing backgrounds.

Generally an entertaining and thought provoking piece which may leave you reflecting on your own life choices (or lack of them) for retirement. To 26-10-19.

Rosemary Manjunath and Elizabeth Smith


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