Arts

Menopause The Musical: Maureen Nolan on celebration of women and 'the change'

Maureen Nolan chats to Jenny Lee about Menopause The Musical, chocolate and her decision to have a facelift

Maureen Nolan returns to the Belfast stage week in Menopuase The Musical

WHAT causes women of a certain age to suffer cold sweats, hot flushes, memory loss, chocolate cravings and mood swings that make them as predictable as the Irish weather? No, it’s not watching a men’s a GAA final – it’s the menopause.

Still very much a taboo subject, Menopause The Musical, invites women to turn this change-of-life experience into a fun-filled night at the theatre. Fully armed with a cast of hormonal women, memory-loss one-liners and innuendo-laden versions of pop classics, the tour comes to Belfast this week, starring Katherine Lynch (RTÉ’s Wagons Den), Cheryl Ferguson (EastEnders), Rebecca Wheatley (Casualty) and Maureen Nolan (The Nolans).

This musical celebration of women and 'the change', has entertained and inspired women across the world since 2001. The all-singing, all-dancing comedy brings together four women at a department store sale, who on first appearance have nothing in common. However, the sale of a black lace bra soon stimulates comical female heart-to-hearts on hot flushes, night sweats, memory loss, chocolate binges, not enough sex, too much sex and plastic surgery.

The lyrics parody popular music from the baby boomer era, with notable numbers including Stayin' Awake, Puff, My God I'm Draggin and I'm Having a Hot Flush.

The nameless characters are simply referred to as Earth Mother, Professional Woman, Soap Star and Housewife, which makes the story so identifiable to audiences.

Maureen Nolan, no stranger to Northern Ireland, having last performed here in Footloose in Derry, takes on the role of the Soap Star.

"I play an ageing star who is having trouble hanging onto her looks. I suppose I'm typecast," laughs the 64-year-old, who last summer went under the knife for a facelift.

"Plastic surgery is more widely accepted now; I don't think it's that big a deal. It done exactly what I wanted, tightening my jawline. It makes me brighter and less tired."

And would she have any more cosmetic surgery in the future? "I'd love a boob lift and a bit of lipo here and there, but wouldn't we all," she laughs.

Maureen admits she "sailed through" the menopause herself: "I had hot flushes, but that was about it. On reflection, I also sailed through puberty as well. I'm very fortunate as there are people who have horrendous times with both, and my sisters' have all been worse than me."

Maureen began singing with her sisters when she was nine years old and together they became one of Europe’s first girl bands – The Nolans. They also made history in musical theatre, with four of them (Linda, Bernie, Denise and Maureen) having played the role of Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers. Her sister Linda also previously starred in Menopause The Musical.

Maureen is enthusiastic about bringing the show to Ireland and says it's both "fun" and "empowering". "On the face of it, it seems like a very light comedy, but actually it's serious and moving. It doesn’t make light of the menopause, rather it shows you can tackle the raging hot sweats with humour and honesty. I certainly don’t mind anyone knowing I have to have fans in my dressing room, even when it’s cold. But what’s really great about this show is that there is such camaraderie in the room and women seem to go away feeling better about everything.

"It's lovely when people come up to us after the show to thank us and tell us how they don't feel so alone any more and feel they can now talk about the menopause and not hide away."

What the cast would love to see more of is male audience members. "Cheryl needs at least one male in the audience to interact with and we've had to set an usher up on one occasion. But when men do come, without fail they really enjoy it. Men are living with women going through the menopause, so why should they not come along and find out more?"

Another 'symptom' of the menopause can be chocolate cravings.

"Chocolate binges happened throughout my life, not just in the menopause," laughs Maureen, who reveals there will be no chocolate or sweet treats consumed during their Irish tour.

"I made a plea with the girls that we would go on a bit of a pre-summer health kick and we've downloaded some keep fit video to do in our spare time."

:: Menopause The Musical comes to The MAC, Belfast, from March 14-17. Tickets at themaclive.com

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