Archive | July, 2017

I LOVED LUCY

27 Jul

I LOVED LUCY
By Lee Tannen
At the Arts Theatre
The Extraordinary thing about the TV series I LOVE LUCY is its longevity. It ran from 1951-1957
Having spent seven weeks in the US at the beginning of the year. I watched re runs of Lucy every morning on T.V, and apart from a little mental adjustment for political correctness, it is just as endearing and funny as it was then. Lucy was a female clown, and her husband Desi Arnaz was a perfect foil for her idiocy.
In this play, we find out that the pompous Desi was a drunkard and a womaniser and the ditzy Lucy an intelligent and well organised woman – just the opposite of the characters they played.
As director Anthony Biggs says Lucille Ball was a trailblazer. A woman with her own TV studios, married to a Cuban and still working in her seventies. All unusual for the nineteen fifties.
But this play takes place ten years before her death in 1989 and concerns a true love story between her and a young gay man Lee Tannen. Tannen is the author of this play about their sometimes-passionate relationship. She relied on him as escort, confidant, and backgammon player, a game neither of them played very well
Lee Tannen’s story began when, as a devoted fan of the Lucy shows, he found out that he was distantly related to her and took advantage of this to meet his idol. This led to an extraordinarily close relationship. Even though he had a long term special other on the opposite side of the continent, his affair with Tom never got in the way of his friendship with Lucy.
Sandra Dickinson is an American actress who made her life here in England. Her portrayal of the great comedienne is uncanny and completely believable. Her love for the young man is palpable and her frenzied rage when he opposes her is thunderous. This is a portrait of one highly respected, powerful lady and the young gay man who loved her. Tannen is played in this production by Matthew Scott a young man who has just finished in “An American in Paris” on Broadway. They are the only two performers on stage and they have great rapport
The play was produced earlier at Jermyn Street Theatre, and it was so well received that it has transferred to the Arts theatre. What is interesting about this first night of the transfer is that so many of the people in the audience had already seen the play before and they came to enjoy it again. I was in the audience on the press night at Jermyn street and sat next to the author, very much aware of his wrapt attention to the show as he noted every laugh, obviously still planning a future production. I felt a bit like a joke tester.
So, like the others I saw it again and am happy to say I Loved Lucy – and still do. She died in 1989. But through the respect paid to her by Lee Tannen and the excellence of this production, Lucy is alive and well – very funny, very moving and to be seen at the Arts Theatre
This is a love story without sex but no less powerful for that.

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TREATING ODETTE

24 Jul

TREATING ODETTE ****
By Jennifer Selway

French born Odette was a simple housewife and mother who was enlisted as an SOE during the second world war. She was captured by the Gestapo, horribly tortured by refusing to identify members of the Resistance, and was imprisoned in a windowless and freezing cell in Ravensbruck prison until the end of the war. She was awarded the George Cross and the Legion d’honneur for her incredible bravery.
Having heard the war office needed pictures of France she sent them her photogaphs of Bourgogne and was asked to join the special operations executive.
she was caught by the Gestapo and resisted the most horrible torture. Burned on her back by a red not poker, her toe nails were all pulled out, but they did not kill her because, as a relative of the Prime Minister, she was needed as a bargaining tool so she was held as a hostage in Ravensbruck prison where she endured life in a tiny windowless, dark cell and sometimes food was denied for a week at a time. It was usually freezing cold but on one occasion the heat was turned high and she was almost cooked by the heat.
In 1950 Herbert Wilcox made a film of her life, starring his wife Anna Neagle Odette worked as an advisor on the movie and became close friends with the actress. The play begins with Neagle performing a torture scene and Odette advising her on a technical point.
The author then paints the rest of her picture in the famous Cyclax Beauty Salon in Mayfair (beautifully imagined by Emily Bestow) and creates conversations between the two friends and Patricia, the young beautician who tends them both. The girl was also in the services during the war – as a land girl and then in the Wrens.
Gradually, between the three of them Odette’s story is told. There are so many fascinating details. He commanding officer was Captain Peter Churchill and she adopted his name to save her life. The enemies assumed she was Churchill’s wife, related to the English Prime Minister, and therefore could be used as a bargaining tool.
Th grisly story is brought out in a series of chats between Neagle, Odette and the beautician who was taking care of them. and all three girls play together beautifully though I felt they were a bit static and remained too long in the same place. The chair was always the centre of the play, because the play relied on the conversations between them.
Jessica Boyde, who is half French was perfect casting for Odette and Anna Neagle was quite brilliantly played by Red Gray who has a perfect nineteen fifties English accent. The beautician was played by Charlotte Peak to give a little more closeness for the action..
My feeling is that, although it was a beautiful set and seemed perfectly in taste with the times. I felt it seems a bit too big a room and the action was confined to tiny spots of it.
The direction was fine by John Plews and the design by Emily Bestow was exquisite but could possibly have been brought in a little
The author then paints the rest of her picture in the famous Cyclax Beauty Salon in Mayfair (beautifully imagined by Emily Bestow) and creates conversations between the two friends and Patricia, the young beautician who tends them both. The girl was also in the services during the war – as a land girl and then in the Wrens.
Gradually, between the three of them Odette’s story is told. There are so many fascinating details. He commanding officer was Captain Peter Churchill and she adopted his name to save her life. The enemies assumed she was Churchill’s wife, related to the English Prime Minister, and therefore could be used as a bargaining tool.

The whole play reflects the horrors of war and illuminates the extent of human endurance.

THE HIRED MAN

24 Jul

THE HIRED MAN
Adapted by Howard Goodall and Melvyn Bragg from three books by Melvyn Bragg.
Music and Lyrics by Howard Goodall.
Melvyn Bragg’s three books about life in Cumbria in the early twentieth century have been adapted by the author and the composer Howard Goodall into a musical which is being revived at the Union Theatre in Southwark.
For those who are constantly complaining about the musical revivals from the USA, here is a thoroughly British show with typically English credentials. Both author and composer are well know to the British Public from their Television appearances.
Bragg’s story is inspired by the lives of his grandparents and great grandparents. John Tallentire ( Ifan Gwilym-Jones)arrives in the tiny village asking for a job as a hired man in on the Pennington’ farm. He is accepted and he waits for his wife Emily (Rebecca Gilliland) to arrive. Later he realises that the agricultural industry is not going to make him the money he needs and he elects to go down the mines instead. During the time he is away, Emily has a brief affair with Jackson Pennington, the local ladies’ man. The mines are dangerous and the work is hard. There is an explosion, men are killed and some of the minor try to start a Trades Union. One of the best scenes in the piece is the Union Song (Men of Stone)
In act two, the children of Emily and John have grown up and the world is at war with Germany. The war sequence is horrific and several of her cast disappear in the trenches, including one of the Tallentire children.
I think the main trouble with this production is not the actual direction, the songs, choreography (though would the village girls do cartwheels and show off their bloomers?) and the harmonies all of which are fine. It is just that, unless you know the stories – and I don’t – the plot is very difficult to follow. I didn’t even know that the baby in act one was now seventeen years of age. This made it very confusing. I thought the plethora of Tallentires must be John and Emily’s brothers and sisters.
I have had my ears tested recently and I think that there is a problem with the acoustic of the new Union Theatre. I am told that sound was suggested and turned down. There is a large cast and they move about a great deal. It is a shame and I hope that maybe the actors can be persuaded to give the words a little more welly. Although it is not a standard type of musical, it still needs to be heard.
There is some good grouping and a feeling of togetherness among the villagers, especially when there is an accident down the mine and when they all go to war.
My basic problem with this piece is the total lack of comedy. Usually people in wars manage to raise quite a lot of smiles. But this is depressing. I feel that when the world is in a disturbing state politically we need something a bit more uplifting to cheer us up.
This is just my feeling and I know that many people find this their favourite musical and that it is something worthy of respect. Yes, maybe but I would like a laugh or two when I go to the theatre.
Yes Ok, Great for people who liked gloom and misery but that ‘aint me. Sorry.

Boys in the Buff

16 Jul

BOYS IN THE BUFF
BY Chris Burgess
At the Stockwell Playhouse
Well I found the Lost Theatre. Thank goodness, this is the last time I shall be able to do that joke. Because. Hurray, the name has been changed to Stockwell Playhouse – though it still says Lost Theatre on the door.
Anyway, The Stockwell Playhouse is a very well-equipped first floor theatre, with a lift from the ground floor box office up to the well-designed auditorium which allows good views from every seat. It also has studios up above the theatre for rehearsals. There is a bar which is a bit on the small side and the customers tend to hang about in the corridor, blocking the lift. It would be good if the bar area could be extended.
The current show is ‘Boys in the Buff (terrible title) a musical cabaret with four attractive young men and one divinely voluptuous young woman. This is just like a Windmill show in reverse, with the boys in an assortment of sexy and revealing costumes and the girl fully dressed throughout. The show is supposed to be about body image and there are many good jokes and witty lyrics about the subject but it is definitely aimed at the Pink Pound and most of the audience on press night was made up of men. Nothing wrong with trying to make money out of theatre – it doesn’t happen all that often. Nevertheless, there are songs dealing with plastic surgery, acne, the gymn, make up, acne, photoshops, narcissism, exhibitionism, size queens, and so on. Most interesting was the number about the kind of terrible bullying children put up with. Words like Spotty, Fatty, ginger and so on. These subjects are all vital and all useful.
The clever thing about the show is the casting and the differences between the personalities of the four men. There is Max (Adam O’Shea) an ex twenty stone weakling, who has dieted and exercised himself slim, fancies himself as an intellectual and does a musical version of To be or Not To be dressed as Marlene on a chair and performing exaggerated dancer moves throughout. Imagine Dietrich quoting Shakespeare and doing cartwheels. There is a gay man (Shaun Roddick) who had kept his secret for years before he came out and proud. Phil (Julian Quijano)is the shy one who is ashamed of showing his body but of course is brought round by the end, and there is the cocky (forgive the expression) and keen to display his body on every possible occasion. This is played by actor William Frazer.
All the boys cope well with Sam Rayner’s cheeky, Bob Fosse style choreography. Of course there are many references to The Full Monty – whether they actually do the full thing you will have to find out for yourself.
The script by Chris Burgess deals with body image and how it can obsess the ‘selfie’ mentality.
It was a happy, not at all intellectually demanding evening A kind of theatrical holiday enlightened on the Press Night by a performance from Tezza – a happily rotund member of the audience.
aline

boys in the buff by Chris Burgess

14 Jul

Last night. Found the Lost Theatre – now happily to be called The Stockwell Playhouse. So this is the very last time for that joke.
The Stockwell Playhouse is a very well equipped theatre with a decent sized stage and well designed auditorium with good views from every seat.
The show was ‘Boys in the Buff (terrible title) a cabaret with four attractive young men and one divinely voluptuous young woman. A kind of male Windmill show with the men doing the stripping and the one girl who stayed dressed throughout and acted as narrator. The boys were well chosen with widely differing personalities. Two of them straight actors but they coped Ok with Sam Rayner’s cheeky, Bob Fosse style choreography. The script by Chris Burgess deals with body image and how it can obsess the ‘selfie’ mentality.
It was a happy, not at all intellectually demanding evening A kind of theatrical holiday enlightened by a performance from Tezza – a happily rotund member of the audience.

Please can I have this at my funeral

11 Jul

Thank you My Dove for remembering this.! x

alinewaites

When I Have Fears – Noel Coward

When I have fears, as Keats had fears,
Of the moment I’ll cease to be
I console myself with vanished years
Remembered laughter, remembered tears,
And the peace of the changing sea.
When I feel sad, as Keats felt sad
That my life is so nearly done.
It gives me comfort to dwell upon
Remembered friends who are dead and gone
And the jokes we had and the fun
How happy they are I cannot know,
But happy I am who loved them so.

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Please can I have this at my funeral

11 Jul

When I Have Fears – Noel Coward

When I have fears, as Keats had fears,
Of the moment I’ll cease to be
I console myself with vanished years
Remembered laughter, remembered tears,
And the peace of the changing sea.
When I feel sad, as Keats felt sad
That my life is so nearly done.
It gives me comfort to dwell upon
Remembered friends who are dead and gone
And the jokes we had and the fun
How happy they are I cannot know,
But happy I am who loved them so.