sat 20/10/2018

Age Before Beauty, BBC One review - mid-life makeover madness | reviews, news & interviews

Age Before Beauty, BBC One review - mid-life makeover madness

Age Before Beauty, BBC One review - mid-life makeover madness

Debbie Horsfield's big, brassy, blowsy beauty salon drama

Glamour profession? Robson Green, Polly Walker, Kelly Harrison and James Murray

If you were looking for the antidote to Love Island, this might be just the job. Instead of airbrushed 20-something Instagram fanatics flaunting their “gym-honed” physiques in the Mediterranean sun, in Age Before Beauty (BBC One) writer Debbie Horsfield (Poldark, Cutting It) brings us mid-life angst and middle-aged spread amid the lipgloss and face-peels of the tacky Mirrorbel beauty salon in Manchester.

Largely, it’s a family affair. Bel (Polly Walker) used to run the salon, but gave it up to raise her kids with husband Wesley (James Murray). Now the offspring are starting courses at Leeds University, and their parents are wondering what they’re supposed to do next. Meanwhile, Bel’s sister Leanne (Kelly Harrison) has taken over Mirrorbel, and she’s bitchily delighted that she has managed (with the appliance of every bit of science available) to hang on to some semblance of her youthful looks while her sister has opted for frumpy motherhood.Kelly Harrison in Age Before BeautyHowever, Leanne is about as good at running the salon as Govia Thameslink is at making the trains run on time. As Bel observes, for Leanne and her crew “it’s more like their own pamper party” than a real business. They get no help from Bel and Leanne’s mother Ivy-Rae (Sue Johnston), a batty old bag scarily fixated with pulling blokes, to the disgust of her husband Chizzler (Struan Rodger), who’s confined to a wheelchair after falling out of a window.

All of which was quite fun, if somewhat soapish and not startlingy original. But Horsfield has cannily planted a suspect device under the action in the shape of Leanne’s husband Teddy (Robson Green), which sent this first episode screeching off in unexpected directions. Teddy is Mirrorbel’s accountant, and it is he who breaks the news to Bel that the business is on the brink of bankruptcy. With Mephistophelian guile, he drops into her ear the notion of stepping back to save the ailing salon. As Teddy himself says, timing is everything, and for Bel the empty-nester this is a heaven-sent opportunity.

Bel is like the greatest hits of Mary Portas and Alex Polizzi. Before you can say “makeover” she has punters queueing round the block at the new souped-up salon, prompting cattiness and bitter tantrums from Leanne, who can’t help acting her shoe-size.

However, this drastically tips the mid-life balance of Bel’s marriage off its axis. Hubby Wesley, who works as a joiner and, we surmise, used to be catnip to the ladies in previous decades, finds he too needs a new diversion. Mysteriously, however, it emerges that Teddy is quietly pulling strings here as well. He’s a man with a plan, and it’s an ambitious one. With five episodes to go, and with a stage packed with big brightly-coloured characters who all get their fair share of the spotlight, this could be a lot of fun.

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters