‘Menopause still invisible on screen’, says Bridget Christie
Written by Herald Magazine in Herald Scotland on June 12th, 2023
Bridget Christie is no stranger to the small screen but The Change, her new Channel 4 venture, marks her first comedy drama. called The Change. Created, written by and starring the multi-award-winning stand-up, the six-part series follows Linda (played by Christie, from Gloucester), a 50-year-old, married, working-class mother-of-two having an existential crisis prompted by the menopause.
After realising how much time she’s spent doing invisible work for those around her, she dusts off her old Triumph motorbike that she has not ridden in 30 years and sets off to the Forest of Dean (where she spent time as a child) in search of an identity, a purpose.
It was a nostalgic homecoming of sorts for Christie, 51, who spent time in the same spot in the 1970s and describes her work as a “love letter” to the sprawling woodland, and “to women, borne out of my childhood memories.”
“I wanted to create a show with an ordinary, relatable story at its heart, but place it in an extraordinary setting,” she said.
“To capture the mundanity of our day-to-day lives but also the magic and beauty all around us that we miss because we’re too busy to notice. So, we have two contrasting worlds – one of grey, suburban domesticity and the other of vivid, rural community life.”
Menopause, the trigger for Linda’s life-affirming trip, is a subject Christie addressed in her most recent stand-up show, Who Am I?, which, offering up a playful and rich dissection, was met with critical acclaim.
She hopes The Change, a show in which the protagonist is a menopausal woman, will plug a much-needed gap in the TV world – at least for now – or at the very least, start much-needed conversations.
“We are seeing more and more older women in lead roles and that’s obviously fantastic, but there’s still a way to go – the menopause is never written into those storylines,” she reasons.
“We don’t often see them having symptoms or talking to other female characters or their partners or work colleagues about it,” she points out. “So, while it’s great we’re seeing more and more older women taking these central parts, a big part of them has been erased.
“The menopause is still this invisible thing on screen, and when it is written into a storyline, it’s not usually done as explicitly as it is here, where it’s at the heart of the story.”
How much did her own life experience in the Forest of Dean feed into the writing?
“I had the same menopause symptoms as Linda but in terms of my own life, not much of it bled into the show,” she admits.
“I did go to the Forest of Dean as a child, I do ride a motorbike and I do have two children, but all my sisters are lovely and I have a job that I love and find very fulfilling, so I never felt like I’d lost my path in life or my identity.”
As for penning her fellow characters – an eccentric mix, including the Eel Sisters, an angry local radio presenter and a mysterious man who lives in the woods with the wild boar – it was a joy, Christie remembers.
“I found it hugely, creatively satisfying, getting inside their heads, and thinking about what they’d say and do,” she teases. “And none of the characters are based on real people so I felt I could really make them say anything and it was joyful when it came to casting them all. And what a cast, my God!”
It’s an impressive line-up, with the likes of Susan Lynch, Tanya Moodie, Jerome Flynn, Liza Tarbuck, Paul Whitehouse, Monica Dolan, Jim Howick and Omid Djalili starring.
“I genuinely don’t have a favourite, but because Tony (Whitehouse) and the Verderer (Howick) are the most extreme characters, who say the most extreme things, I did have a lot of fun coming up with terrible things for them to say,” quips Christie.
“When Bridget sent me the part of Tony, I thought he was such a good character, because he’s so un-right on,” Whitehouse chimes, his character a man of simple pleasures who was born and bred in the Forest.
“What I love about Bridget’s writing is that it’s not judgemental. The character is a pain in the arse and could’ve been intimidating, except the way she presents it is she’s the tough guy and I’m all front,” muses the 65-year-old Gone Fishing star.
“She sees a kernel of compassion in the guy that’s masked by his macho bravado. Also, it gives me the opportunity to be totally politically incorrect, which is always a lot of fun.”
Howick, meanwhile, plays The Verderer, a resident of the town Linda finds herself in, who DJs on the local radio station and preaches his views about men’s rights and holding on to traditions.
“The Verderer is an angry, middle-aged man obsessed with encroachment,” says Howick, 44. “So it was a struggle to get my head around the man, because I suppose my type is quite sunny, chirpy characters and here was a man who was just lost, essentially.
“My first impression was: this guy is everything I don’t like about the world. But there’s a human being in there and that’s another lesson that perhaps we should learn, that through thorough investigation and a little understanding, you learn these people are generally lonely, lost, and angry.”
Taking on the formidable Eel Sisters (Agnes and Carmel), who run the Eel Cafe and who are adored by the men of the town, are Susan Lynch and Monica Dolan, respectively.
The cafe and Eel Festival, a folklore festival shoehorned in as a tradition whereby the Forest people come together to celebrate transition and the different biological stages of women – is something that the community revolves around.
Of Christie’s vision for the show, “This story and the way she’s put all these women in their 50s together and shared their wisdom with such humour is inspiring,” offers Lynch, 52.
“Each of the characters have their own innate wisdom and they’re all really colourful. When we filmed the Eel Festival scenes, there were moments where I was really tearful,” she follows.
“Some of it is very, very funny, but some of it is so moving. I was standing there thinking this is incredible, you’ve never seen this before, a celebration of women done with such humour. But also the idiosyncrasies of community and how, more than ever, community is what we really need.”
Also addressing environmental issues, Christie can only wish for a similar heartfelt reaction from viewers, stating: “Stories have the power to change hearts and minds. I hope mine does. In some small way.
“I hope the themes of the show resonate with people and I hope [viewers] finish the series with hope in their hearts and fire in their bellies,” she concludes.
“That they feel inspired to make changes in their own lives – and I hope there is a household chore revolution!”
The Change starts on Channel 4 on Wednesday June 21.
Written by Herald Magazine in Herald Scotland on 12th June 2023.
Filed Under: The Change