I Want That Hair – Review – East Riding Theatre, Beverley
By Karl Hornsey, March 2019
Fans of the work of Jane Thornton and John Godber will be keen to get down to the East Riding Theatre in Beverley this month to see an updated version of hairdressing comedy I Want That Hair. Thornton wrote the story in 2007 and, with a few tweaks here and there and some more modern references, it’s back on stage and, judging by the reaction when I went to see it, proving just as popular as it was the first time around.
“Neverending quest for a falafel wrap”
I Want That Hair is a two-hander (with the brief exception of the only customer we see, played by Avalon Ramos), focusing on the lives of salon owner Bex and her assistant Heidi, with I Want That Hair also being the name of said salon. Another member of the team, the exotically named India is mentioned but never seen, seemingly trapped in a neverending quest for a falafel wrap. Having just the two actors on stage offers a great chance for the characters to develop naturally, and both Jackie Lye and Pippa Fulton seem to thoroughly enjoy their roles.
There’s much in this production to admire, as Thornton’s writing hits close to the bone of the experiences of anyone who has been to a hairdresser’s, with the range of conversations between Bex and Heidi covering anything from family life, ambitions, the dread of getting old and, of course, pulling to pieces the traits of all and sundry who come to get their hair done. There’s also the not insignificant development going on across the road, where ‘Hairsperience’, a rather higher-end salon offering all sorts of fancy modern treatments, has opened, and where many of I Want That Hair’s customers seem to end up frequenting.
Jackie Lye plays Bex, who is trying to keep the salon running despite being afraid to move with the times, while worrying about the ‘surprise’ 55th birthday party that her husband Max is about to spring on her. The impending celebration leaves Bex ruminating on the fact that her life has gone nowhere, and talking to Heidi doesn’t seem to help matters much either. Pippa Fulton completely nails her character without turning it into some sort of caricature. She’s blunt, vulgar at times, speaks her mind, very ‘Hull’ and seemingly only interested in getting through the day so she can have a drink and put her feet up. But there is a much deeper side to her personality, and one that is gradually teased out as the story unfolds, thanks to some terrific plot manoeuvres from Thornton.
Admirers of Thornton and Godber will know the sort of humour to expect and certainly won’t be disappointed, with plenty of references to local places and events thrown in for good measure. However, even the best writing in the world would founder in a two-hander if the chemistry between the actors isn’t spot-on, but thankfully here it is. Lye plays Bex as vulnerable on the outside, but tougher than she thinks underneath, while the opposite is the case for Fulton’s Heidi, whose hidden depths are one of the greatest attractions of the story. It’s on at the ERT until the 30th March and I suggest you pop along to see it.