A comedy so good you won’t mind it’s about the menopause
Bridget Christie’s comedy drama has shades of Northern Exposure, and that’s no bad thing
Written by Ann Marie Hourihane in The Independent on June 21st, 2023
I’ve had just about enough of the menopause, both personally and professionally. Since the media discovered it about, oh, 18 months ago, we’ve been hearing about the menopause day and night. How helpful this is to women going through, or about to go through, the menopause remains to be seen — or unseen, if you believe all the talk about invisibility.
So The Change (Channel 4) is a menopause drama — sigh — created by and starring the stand-up comedian Bridget Christie as Linda. The hour-long first episode opens at Linda’s 50th-birthday barbecue.
Isn’t Steve a wonderful husband, Linda’s sister Siobhán says to her, to organise this lovely party for your birthday?
Linda lists all the things she did to organise it, in a short speech that ends: “Made my own cake, chose my own present, wrapped it — now I’m clearing up.”
Shortly afterwards, Linda opens a kitchen cupboard and an avalanche of Tupperware falls on her head. She is ready to hit the road.
Linda is your average 50-year-old woman — husband, two kids, job on a checkout at the supermarket — but with tiny, comic differences. There’s the Triumph motorbike. And also she has logged every minute of unpaid work she has done for her family over the previous 25 years.
Her husband is not at all a bad guy. Omid Djalili plays Steve, who is the life and soul of the barbecue. His is a great performance. Steve is bewildered by Linda deciding to go off on her own: soon he runs out of toilet paper and bathroom towels and cannot find the cheesegrater. “Dave says lots of menopausal women become selfish when their oestrogen runs out,” Steve says in a phone call to his mother. His mother, and also Siobhán, refuse to believe that Linda has not run off with another man.
The Change has a terrific cast. Siobhán is played by Liza Tarbuck, and is not at all the supportive sister that Linda actually needs. “Why don’t you have a nice drink and a little break from talking?” she suggests.
Linda and her motorbike arrive in the remote rural town where she lived as a child. She rents a caravan from two weird sisters, Agnes and Carmel (Susan Lynch and Monica Dolan, having the time of their lives) who run the eel pie shop. Linda has to clean the filthy caravan herself. She is harassed in the pub by Tony (Paul Whitehouse).
And we’re off. On the one hand we’re watching a woman going through the beginnings of menopause — although not so as you’d notice. On the other hand we’re in the classic television comedy drama about a stranger — “Townmouse”, the eel sisters call Linda — discovering a rural community that is far more interesting and sophisticated than the one she has left.
The Change is most reminiscent of the Nineties American series Northern Exposure, with a lot of its wit and charm. The eel shop, say the eel sisters, “has survived war, plagues and Veganuary”. The music is English folk, and terrific.
It is in the final two episodes that things get a bit right-on and pastoral — shades of Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem here. But each half-hour episode is a pleasure as Linda is having a great time while Steve is back at home, not able to find the remote control for the TV.
This could be one of the hits of the summer.
Written by Ann Marie Hourihane in The Independent on 21st June 2023.
Filed Under: The Change