Review: Powder Room

Life in the ladies'

Life in the ladies’

Title:                          Powder Room

Certificate:               15

Director:                   M J Delaney

Mayor Players:        Sheridan Smith, Jaime Winstone, Kate Nash

Out Of Five?            3


How does the song go?  “No-one knows what goes on behind closed doors.”  Well, in the case of any ladies’ room at a night club, no man knows what goes on behind closed doors – but any males of the species venturing out to see M J Delaney’s Powder Room are about to find out.  And big time!

The action takes place in and around a down-at-heel London night club where Sam (Sheridan Smith) has arranged to meet an old school friend who’s just back from Paris.  The combination of her success over there and the snooty pal she has in tow makes Sam even more aware than usual of her own shortcomings – no love life, lousy job, nothing to look forward to – so she concocts a fictional life for herself instead.  The trouble is, her other friends turn up at the same club, including the brash, bleach-blonde Chanel (Jamie Winston) and Sam has to make sure the two sets of girls don’t meet – otherwise the proverbial cat will be out of the bag.

The film’s origins as a stage play are immediately apparent from the use of the ladies’ room as the main setting for all the action.  It’s based on Rachel Hirons’ When Women Wee and, on stage, the setting is a practical way of bringing together characters from on and off the stage, both singly and in groups.  On film, it’s more restricting and, although a handful of scenes are shot outside the club, the camera is soon drawn back to behind the doors of that secret world.

It’s no wonder that when an unfortunate male is dragged into the ladies’, he looks like a rabbit in the headlights.  It’s bad enough that he’s brought face to face with his ex, but the sight of raucous women en masse, plus the repeated reminders from the disapproving attendant that men aren’t allowed in there, make him desperate to get out of there pdq.

A word about that attendant.  It’s a little comic gem of a performance from Johnnie Fiori, complete with garish tabard and traditional African headgear.  The powder room may be scruffy, but it’s still her territory, so her table of essential supplies is immaculately laid-out and there is always plenty of toilet paper.  For the first half of the film, she lets her face do the talking: it’s all disapproving stares and the occasional ‘tut’ at the antics in front of her.  When the going gets tougher later on, she finds a voice – a compassionate, practical and almost maternal one.

The nearly all-female cast is chock-full of up-coming British talent.   Sheridan Smith and Jaime Winstone are probably the best known, but there’s also Kate Nash and Game Of Thrones’ Oona Chaplin.  They all bring energy and conviction to their roles, with Winstone especially good as the very rough diamond, Chanel, who constantly thinks she has met Mr Right and who, equally quickly, finds out she hasn’t.  She’s not the only one who’s disappointed with her life and who is desperate for a good night out to help her forget.  Sam (Smith) we know as her issues, but she soon discovers that life isn’t so perfect for the Parisian pair either.  In fact, nobody is happy with their lot – and they can’t escape it either.

Powder Room was shot on a very tight timescale and there are moments when it shows.  But that rough-around-the-edges feeling is rather in keeping with the brash, noisy tone of the film.  It’s the perfect film for a girls’ night out.  But don’t take the boyfriend!

Powder Room is released  on Friday, 6 December.


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