WORTH A LOOK?: ****
WHERE: Park Theatre
WHEN: 28/4, runs to 27/5
Helena Rubinstein emigrated from Poland to Australia in 1902, with no money and little English, formed one of the world’s first cosmetics companies and became one of its richest women.
- Read on for reasons including why this reminded us of an ageing French and Saunders
Here we see her rivalry with the American Elizabeth Arden, also one of the world’s richest women running her own cosmetics company.
Madame Rubinstein is premiered here and imagines what it would be like if the two women had met and also examines Rubinstein’s relationship with her ‘Irish fairy’ bodyguard Patrick O’Higgins (played by Jonathan Forbes, who not only goes full frontal but has to undergo jibes by Rubinstein about the size of his manhood).
Miriam Margolyes so inhabits the insensitive yet quicksilver witted Rubinstein that it’s so easy to forget the very many iconic roles she’s already given us. Frances Barber as Arden is much as you would expect, yet when the two clash it’s pure comedy French and Saunders What Ever Happened To Baby Jane gold.
We laughed a great deal here not least at the feuding and one-upmanship between the two high-flying businesswomen.
Rubinstein’s metaphoric adoption of the gay O’Higgins at the expense of her own sons provides much of the melancholy which tempers the comedy and sets the scene for the tragedy that is to unfurl.
Margolyes, Barber and Forbes are so good that it’s easy to forget that this is a three-hander. We laughed ourselves silly at this, came away thinking what a fine actress Margolyes is and couldn’t help but be a little touched at how it all played out.
An unexpected delight that we wouldn’t hesitate to see again.