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Funkface review

by: Caroline Westbrook - Last updated: 2005-04-12

Amanda Noar

Amanda Noar

A new play based on the life of Jewish single mum Regina Woolfstein, founder of the fashion label Funkface, has made its debut in London after wowing audiences in Manchester. SJ’s Caroline Westbrook checks it out.

Fresh from its debut in Manchester, where it played to packed houses, London audiences have now had the chance to see Binda Singh’s play. Funkface takes its name from the fashion label set up by Jewish single mum Regina Woolfstein, who forms the inspiration for this play – it’s a fictionalised account of how she went from being a divorcee, struggling to make ends meet and raise three children, to setting up the label, with a bit of inspiration from a feisty colleague.

Here, Regina becomes Sharon (played here by Louise Travis), a mousy, thirtysomething single mother making a living selling cosmetics in a department store. It’s not the easiest of jobs, having to deal with difficult customers, her slimy boss and a forthcoming fashion show within the store itself – but with a little help from her colleague Jenny (former Coronation Street actress Amanda Noar) she gets through it, all the while trying to conceal her true feelings about the unfortunate turn her life has taken.

One of the most refreshing things about Singh’s play is the fact that while the characters are openly Jewish – we know this due to a smattering of lines referencing their faith – it is incidental to the plot rather than taking it over. In other words, rather than hitting us over the head with stereotypes or overplaying the religion card, he tells us an inspiring story which could have happened to anybody – the only difference is that the characters happen to be Jewish.

Both leads are appealing, especially Noar (who also directed this production) as Jenny, who isn’t afraid to speak her mind, leading to some very frank dialogue and bawdy humour (which might offend some audience members). Given much of it centres on female bonding and the underlying theme of women’s empowerment, it’s likely to strike more of a chord with female audience members than their male counterparts – but men will find much to enjoy here, from the sharp and witty script (and its many potshots at Z-list celebrities with ideas above their station) through to a second act which cranks up the comedy factor for a hilarious sub-plot involving a philandering footballer and his air-headed wife.

The London production also came complete with a fashion show, which raised money for Women Fighting Breast Cancer while displaying some of Woolfstein’s Funkface creations, as well as some of the finest fashions from Fenwick's Brent Cross and Lili Grace in Edgware have to offer. It was a nice idea, and all in a good cause – but seemed a tad out of place tacked on to the end of the play. But it’s a minor quibble in what is otherwise a thoroughly entertaining evening out.