With Grey Gardens the musical on at Southwark Playhouse in January, the grown-up reissues of Ladybird books selling faster than cut-price TVs on Black Friday and Gucci, Prada and Marni playing maximalist mash-up, it’s seventies retro inspiration all round. Sheila Hancock and Jenna Russell play Big Edie and Little Edie in Grey Gardens the musical, adapted from the Maysles brothers 1975 documentary about Jackie O’s auntie and cousin; the Bouvier Beales.
The eccentric dropouts lived together in the Hamptons and their thrown together aristo-on-their-uppers style is often name checked by fashion designers as a source of inspiration. Grey Gardens the musical was the winner of three Tony Awards on Broadway; last one to buy tickets is a nincompoop…
Along with a jar of Branston Pickle, I took Manhattan Brother a couple of the Ladybird books for grown-ups – he always likes a little something to remind him of home. I can see the The Mid-Life Crisis becoming the stocking filler du jour amongst the over-40 crowd. Written by comedy writers Jason Hazeley and Joel Morris who worked on TV shows such as Charlie Brooker’s Screen Wipe and Miranda and the Paddington film, the books are spoofs of the original Ladybird classics, complete with 1970s illustrations. The first page of The Ladybird Book of The Mid-Life Crisis goes like this,
‘When we are young, we all dream of doing something wonderful and exciting with our lives. What will we be? A cosmonaut? An underwater detective? A tommy gunner? A groin surgeon? Anything is possible. And then one day, it isn’t.’
And the last page, ‘Colin spent his redundancy money on the loudest motorcycle he could find. He has stopped at a petrol station on the way to an archive where he is researching his family tree. “You only live once,” Colin says with a wink to the girl on the moped. The girl smiles back at him. Colin reminds her of her dad.’
Unfortunately, Manhattan Brother hasn’t read it yet. Here are some seventies-with-a-glimmer-of-Grey-Gardens-inspired bits and pieces: