THERE’S the story of a generation bound up in Denise Van Outen’s 100-minute solo show with songs, which runs at the King’s Theatre until Wednesday.
Rating: * * *
It’s a generation with little to say about politics, and for whom there perhaps really is no such thing as society, or even community.
There are things they understand very well, though; including fashion and style, and the overwhelming importance of romance and personal happiness – often now mediated through beeping social media – in a society that offers few other sources of meaning. So our heroine Stephanie, played with real charm by Van Outen herself, is Essex girl personified, a successful self-made lingerie designer of 40 or so who finds herself facing a dilemma, one night in a London hotel room, when she receives a sudden Facebook message from the man who was her first love, and who comprehensively broke her heart, almost 20 years ago.
There’s nothing unexpected or profound about Stephanie’s story, as she revisits the formative love affair that dominated her teenage years; the playlist of classic torch-songs of the period, accompanied by a karaoke-stye backing, all sound pretty similar, although she sings them with great feeling. Yet the script – co-authored by Van Outen with Terry Ronald – is full of sharp little stabs of wit, and a strong feeling for the period it describes; and Van Outen’s heartfelt and humorous performance whips up such a storm of empathy from the audience that it’s clear Stephanie’s story is finding an echo – even if it is a rather sad one, lost in a lonely world of purely personal experience, and totally vulnerable to the ups and downs of love, and its inevitable failures.