The Spectator – Theatre: Edinburgh snippets – Lloyd Evans 25 August 2012

The festival always produces a real gem and I was lucky enough to see it. Virginia Ironside (Growing Old Disgracefully, Gilded Balloon), once a rock journalist, later an agony aunt, has earned a living by writing for so long that she can’t even scribble a thank you card without enclosing an invoice. Aged 68, she takes a flame-thrower to all the cosy platitudes of the elderly. A friend tells her ‘I’m 70 going on 50.’ ‘No, dear’, says Ironside, ‘if you’re 70 you’re not “going on” anywhere.’ She loathes women who complain that old age makes them invisible. ‘So wear a pigeon on your head! Or leap out from behind bushes at people.’

The label ‘stand-up’ has been attached to this show but Ironside is far wiser and kindlier than a nightclub comic. Her reflections on death are moving and very comforting. Far from being huge and scary, she says, death is small and perfectly natural. Like dropping a chiffon scarf. No doubt she’ll tour this show until her chiffon scarf drops as well. If it arrives anywhere near you, leap on your mobility scooter and zip along.

British Theatre Guide

Honest, irreverent, frank charm. Beautiful humour and perfect poise. This is a five-star show.

The Stage

“Are there any young people in the audience?” demands agony aunt extraordinaire Virginia Ironside with a mischievous twinkle. A good number of hands are nervously raised. “Well, you won’t understand a word of this!” comes the instant tongue-in-cheek retort.

Ironside is being modest. There is no denying there is a core audience of a certain age for a well-known sixty-something’s thoughts on growing old and crinkly, but the best observational comedy is universal and this is not the show to disprove it.

And so she launches into a whizz-tour of thoughts on negotiating life in the third age. There are the changing, often illogical, attitudes as she makes the transition from young woman to grandmother. The increasing aches and pains that lead to pill regimes, moaning about arthritis and the trick of trying to lift herself from her chair after a deep afternoon snooze without breaking wind. Oh, and there’s sex (or its absence) of course. Lashings of that.

In between all of this, there’s barely room to squeeze in her own life story – from one-night stands and interviewing the Beatles as a liberated 60s chick to her groundbreaking work in the national agony columns and the dismay at having to go up against Mariella Frostrup. Throughout, she ensures that a subtle moral beat underlying the stories does not intrude overly.

Though the veteran of countless TV and other live appearances, Ironside is not the most natural of solo show performers, but Nigel Planer’s direction neatly encapsulates all that energy and establishes a grid that maps out the show’s pacing, freeing up Ironside to concentrate fully on the audience. Totally at ease in the spotlight, she effortlessly prods us into several laughs a minute – and groans of happy recognition.

Arthur Smith on BBC Radio 4’s Loose Ends

Virginia’s become, effectively, a stand-up comedian. Her show is really funny. I urge you to see it.

The York Press

It almost makes me look forward to the fun of being great at sixty, just like the indispensable Ms Ironside herself.

The Skinny – Stephanie Green

Virginia Ironside used to hate old people. Now she’s one herself. How great to go to a show which makes you laugh about being 60+. From being a rock column chick, hair styled by Vidal, who interviewed the Beatles et al, she was ‘groovy’ (how dated that sounds now).

Then she woke up one morning to find herself interested in gardening! Help! Book-clubs, cruises, adult education classes and podiatrists all come under her scalpel with all the wit and intelligence Virginia is famed for in her columns as ‘Agony Aunt’ for Woman and currently The Independent, plus numerous books.
Virginia is not going to launch a career as a standup comic, but that’s not the point. She is just herself and she’s spot on about being 60. Her delivery and memory (she’s very funny about ‘Senior Moments’) are a bit…now, what’s the word? It’s coming…wait a minute. No. Gone. Her mainly 60+ audience, including me, adored her and her dressing-gown is to die for. (Oops), though death and sex for the 60+ are not subjects Virginia shies away from.

Elaine Williams – Inverie Village Hall – Knoydart Arts Promotions

Hugely entertaining show from Virginia Ironside – erstwhile music journalist and rock chick, now agony aunt for the Independent, and columnist for Oldie magazine.

Although the show’s publicity blurb targets the over 60s, this is observational comedy at its best, and certainly not lost on the fair few numbers of younger audience members, myself included. Nigel Planer’s production presents Ironside as someone you’d really love to have over to dinner.

Virginia excels at deprecating humour, occasionally very wittily directed at her own son, who I was later surprised to learn is a member of my very favourite band the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. The subject of death and dying is not skirted around either, but approached with gentleness and compassion.

There is much for an audience to identify with in this hour long show. Yes, great stuff. See it if you can. Get it if you can.

Find tickets for Growing Old Disgracefully here


To book Virginia Ironside’s show for your venue visit or telephone: 01462 734843