BBC Radio 4, 24-28 September 2012
It's 1973, and Eileen (Lesley Manville) is approaching her fiftieth birthday.
She is experiencing the menopause, so husband Trevor (Ron Cook) advises her to go see her doctor Richard (Stephen Hogan).
Much against her daughter Judy's (Alex Tregear's) wishes, Eileen embarks on a course of HRT, which not only increases her
sexual desire but recovers her sense of self-worth. Her married life recovers, much to Trevor's surprise, while Judy finds
that her mother is not quite the person she expected her to be.
In its attempts to recapture those heady days of first (or is it second) wave feminism,
Feminine Forever was not without its stereotypical elements. One of Eileen's friends is apt to remove her top in
public, letting everything hang out so to speak, in a gesture of female independence. Meanwhile Judy inhabits a commune
which dedicates itself to free love and sexual equality, whose inhabitants give themselves strange names (Frodo rather than
Alan). While there were no direct references to bra-burning, it did seem that authors Caroline and David Stafford tried
just a little too hard to prove how independent many people were at that time.
On the other hand Feminine Forever suggested, quite rightly, that feminism
had little impact on some women's lives. Judy still expects Eileen to be a goog grandparent by remining at home to look
after her forthcoming baby, while Trevor believes that his wife can "recover" if he takes her dancing. Both of them saw Eileen
as a convenience, who would willingly assume the roles of mother and wife that they expected from her.
As the drama progressed, however, so Eileen acquired self-reliance, of the kind that
enabled her to resist her husband's and her daughter's expectations, while working out a new life of her own. She even
found that she did not need to go to Richard's surgery any more, despite fancying him. The play ended on a note of cautious
optimism: while Eileen opted to continue her married life, she did so on her own terms.
Marc Beeby's production contained some fine comic moments - especially where Trevor