My Brilliant Divorce by Geraldine Aron

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Afternoon Drama on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4, 5 September 2013
Reviewing a radio adaptation of a West End hit - especially an Olivier-Award nominated hit - is not an easy task.  If a critics do not respond to the text, they run the risk of being deemed killjoys, lacking the "judgment" and "perception" shared by audiences and other critics alike, that made the play such a success in the theatre.
I have to admit that this is how I felt as I listened to the opening ten minutes of Liz Anstee's production.  While admiring Caroline Quentin's performance in the central role of Angela, I wondered whether the play was going to be a Shirley Valentine-like analysis of a middle-aged woman's life, as she experiences a lengthy divorce and tries to cope with her new existence - living alone with just the dog Dexter for company.  Although the text contained some good jokes, it seemed a little self-adoring.
As the action progressed, however, so my views began to change.  I understood how Angela's determination to make light of difficult situations was her defence-mechanism - a way of making sense of new and often unpleasant experiences.  Society has a way of marginalizing newly-single middle-aged women, by assuming that they are not really good for anything.  They are too old for retraining in the workplace; unattractive to most men; and pitied by close friends and family alike.  While Angela suffered all these experiences, it was a testament to her basic strength of character that she retained a cheerful outlook on life.
In the end she found solace in a new lover.  Their relationship might not have been permanent one, but it gave both of them the kind of pleasure - emotional as well as sexual - that neither of them had experienced for a long time.  We felt that Angela deserved it, given the struggles she had experienced over the previous three years.
Expertly performed by Quentin, with a supporting cast including James Lance, Sally Grace, and Matt Addis, My Brilliant Divorce was ultimately a life-affirming piece.