Above: Geraldine Aron. Below: Dawn French in My Brilliant Divorce
IT takes a certain
sort of person to poke fun at an experience as painful and widespread
as divorce. A divorced one, of course. But Belsize Park playwright
Geraldine Aron was wondering why she bothered when the reviews for
her first West End show, My Brilliant Divorce starring a solo Dawn
French and dog on wheels, hit the streets.
ovation for divorce diva
“Let’s just say I’m never going to buy the Evening
Standard again,” she told me.
“Of course divorce is frightful. But some of the reviews were
ridiculous. I’m not promoting divorce in any way. Quite the
reverse, in fact. And with an actress as warm and humorous as Dawn,
and a bit of imagination, even a sad topic can be funny. What do people
want? A dirge for an hour and a half?”
Her play even set the cat among the celebs. A tabloid-fodder friend,
who suffered a very humiliating public divorce, asked her nervously
before going to see the show: “Am I going to like this?”
But the playwright insists the audience at the Apollo Theatre does
like it. “Dawn gets a standing ovation every night,” she
So, to write a play about divorce, Geraldine must be thoroughly sorted
after hers. “Yes, I’ve recovered,” she says cautiously.
“But it took a long time. I’ve only been through it once,
after a long marriage. And, of course, My Brilliant Divorce isn’t
my divorce at all.”
Since being on her own again, the Irish-born playwright has lived
for six years in a flat in Belsize Grove. “I really like aspects
of my independent life,” she says. “There’s so much
bitching in marriage. It gets really depressing. Although of course,
I’d love to get re-married.”
Has she found lots of good men out there?
“No, there aren’t any. Divorced men go out with younger
women because they can get away with it. At any singles dinner, you’ll
find a hundred beautiful women and five men in nylon shirts.”
She laughs when she remembers an early post-divorce date. Her prospective
suitor said he would take her out to a concert, so she got all dolled
up, then followed him down into the Tube.
“He was a busker!” she giggles with horror, before adding:
“I have got a couple of admirers on the go at the moment, but
I’m not intending to move in with them.”
After 25 years of writing plays and winning awards, being in the West
End is still a thrill. “It’s the foremost place for drama
in Europe,” she says.
Geraldine’s voice bears hardly a trace of the blarney these
days. If anything, it’s more South African in tone, reflecting
the years spent living there with her ex-husband.
They first arrived in Belsize Park, attracted there because they wanted
to send their twin daughters, now grown up, to King Alfred School
in North End Road. She still has connections in sunnier climes and
has just returned from putting on one of her plays in Cape Town. Back
home, she’s working on a new script, a trilogy of short pieces
called Vacant Possession.
“I’ve written mainly full-length pieces before,”
she says. “But it’s hard to write long plays. And, after
my West End success, I hope it will be easier getting my work put
I point out that, in Belsize Park, she’s handily positioned
to take her place among the area’s glitterati. But she insists
she doesn’t know any, and that, anyway, she’s much more
fish and chips than tapas.
“I really miss Maxwell’s fish bar opposite Belsize Park
Tube. And two Starbucks is too many. But Belsize Park is much smarter
and cleaner these days. You used to find old toilets and mattresses
in the street.”
She pauses, rootling round in her memory for possible playwright connections
in the area, before exclaiming: “Doesn’t Peter Nichols
live round the corner?”
n My Brilliant Divorce is at the Apollo Theatre. 020 7494 5070. Booking
until May 10.