Simon Callow’s Tuesday at Tesco’s

Simon Callow’s Tuesday at Tesco’s
Assembly Hall

Simon Callow’s impersonation of a late-middle-aged transsexual  in this one-man(plus mute pianist) show is very precisely observed. When he turns round and does a little dance he appears exactly as a larger woman of that age, in every finger, which cannot be said of many female impersonators. He takes us into the experience of Pauline, who visits her aged father every Tuesday, takes care of his washing etc and takes him shopping to Tesco’s.

We begin by hearing how Pauline feels every brick is looking at her as she walks towards her father’s place. Going back here is much more difficult than being where she now lives. The father shows little appreciation, and continually bemoans the change from Paul to Pauline. There are many embarrassing moments at Tesco’s, and we are made to feel with Pauline. It is very good that a large audience has this sympathetic experience, and it is to be hoped that Callow is successfully significantly chipping away at prejudice here.

I did find the set bemusing, but it seemed explained at the end – though I found the ending stock and unnecessary.  And I still can’t work out the pianist!

Then there is Tesco’s. Tesco, Tesco, Tesco…every little helps, even.  I suppose this does give the play a popular connection, and all the audience can relate to such a visit as now one is rarely more than a hundred yards from a store. It could have been Monday at Mumbo’s or Thursday at Thorline’s – but no doubt that would lack the popular identification.

Pauline and her Dad speak in voices of very different class registers, though Pauline occasionally shows what she must earlier have sounded like. I found myself wondering at what point Pauline removed herself from her class origins and what effect this had on the family relationship before the gender change. But that was not the subject here.

This is a very professional and effective presentation of a transsexual life,  ultimately melodramatic, but worth seeing for many very effective moments.