Brighton Fringe 2015
A tribute to pioneer performers in Music Hall, Variety and Revue. Household names in the early 1920’s Gwen Farrar and Nora Blaney had an on and off stage partnership singing popular love songs of the day to each other in West End Revues living together openly and enjoying the starry life of Bright Young Things.
Ali Child and Rosie Wakley celebrated the lives of famous lesbian performers Ella Shields, Gwen Farrar, Norah Blaney, Joe Carstairs, Tallullah Bankhead, Dolly Wilde and Radclyffe Hall in stories and songs loosely tied together with their own romance. The audience loved the sing-a-longs and the two women did a creditable job of re-creating history. The show itself seemed to drag a bit even though the songs followed one another in rapid succession. The women lacked the energy and drive that bring songs from that era alive. Perhaps it was the very loose plot that seemed so contrived at times or perhaps it was the warmth of the room, but the performance though word perfect, lacked the charm it needed to be compelling.
The Dukebox Theatre is a lovely space, but the performances there seem to always begin late which not only puts off the audience but must upset the cast. This may have had something to do with the very slow start to the show. The opening number was Ship Ahoy sung rather limply by Wakely in sailor garb followed by Jolly Good Luck to the Girl Who Loves a Soldier sung with a bit more energy by Child.
The show was funded by the Arts Council, and the two women put the money to good use in their costumes and the lovely period set on the small stage with vintage posters and a tiny parrot in a cage. Their historical reminiscences were peppered with a few very lame jokes. One would expect songs form the twenties to be a bit rip-roaring and toe-tapping, but although they packed fifteen very nice songs into an hour show, there was no excitement, no flair. The point they seemed to be making was that even though these women they spoke about were openly living together they could not marry or admit their love for one another publicly.
The performance has the raw materials to be utterly delightful and memorable, but it will need a bit of tightening and re-thinking to elevate it to a hit show. As it is now, it was certainly listenable, but not something you would insist your friend not miss. Child and Wakley gave their audience a pleasant afternoon…but it could have been so much more. The two are planning on taking the show up to Edinburgh, and there is no doubt that the more they perform the piece, the better it will become.