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.

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