Review: Gail Summerfield: Older, Wiser, Funnier, Sillier: My Story

Carina Harford 6 February 2019
Image Credit: Gail Summerfield: Older, Wiser, Funnier, Sillier: My Story via Facebook

★★★★

Gail Summerfield: Older, Wiser, Funner, Sillier: My Story (note the double colon) is the title of Gail’s latest ‘autobiog’, which she was kind enough to read us several excerpts from, alongside doing what she does best: answering agony aunt pleas to Aunty G (no relation of Ali).

Gail is now forty-seven, not hugely wise (she legally must cease and desist with her medical advice, it seems), but definitely fun and silly in her own special way – mainly that way is not realising what’s silly about her. I believe this is called dramatic irony. Hot stuff in the theatre world.

Gail is introduced with a stunning bang: her own highlights reel: winning olympic races, receiving an Oscar, and crashing world summits. (Note the double colon). Out comes the magnificent Gail sporting her obsessive-mum-of-one haircut and M&S circa 2008 orange and white frilled dress with matching pleather belt. She is princess-carried by two young men in very small, pink, swimming trunks, bow-ties, and awkward shoe-sock-bare-hairy-leg combos. They reappear throughout to dance while Gail does quick changes into, among other things, her wedding dress (of all three marriages).

This is peak camp and I love it.

Emmeline Downie is a glorious performer. She has pizazz (yes I do mean pizazz), a hefty stage presence and comic timing for days. She has side-eyes that Phoebe Waller-Bridge would be proud of, nay, jealous of, flicking in and out of performed self-awareness. She does Miranda Hart-esque intonations: ‘naughty!’: with that mock-seriousness that is simultaneously very irritating and also very funny. (Note the double colon). She has the physicality of her character nailed. She has delightfully observed and recreated the syntax and vocabulary of a Gail. She also does remarkably effective foot-stamping. Emmeline Downie is, to surmise, a shiny star.

But, to be a Sour Susan for a hot minute, as Gail would say, the show could have done with a touch of editing – a little tighter in the script and it would have been Ab Fab. I didn’t need to see a whole video of Gail’s ‘gorgeous son Stuart’ singing with Gail mom-ager-ing (that’s a mom-manager, for those uninitiated in the glory of Kris Jenner) in the background. I didn’t need to see that much ‘man meat’, and, [put this single word in a high-pitched almost whine, with a faux-pained face scrunch] honestly, the man-meat men looked a smidge too smug about their casting for it to be truly funny.

Despite the small quibbles, Gail is worth turning up for: the sheer joy that Downie projects is like vitamin D in February: rare and to be gobbled. (Note the double colon).