Edinburgh Fringe 2023
Memories of the Early 1950’s
Festival: Edinburgh Fringe
Christine Hayward tells tales and sings songs from early 1950s Britain.
“Are you sitting comfortably?” Christine Hayward asks. “Then I’ll begin.” This is how ‘Listen With Mother’, a popular series on BBC radio in the 1950s, began. Hayward is bringing us back to a beloved decade of her youth, when Churchill was Prime Minister, transfer fees for football players were more like 30,000 pounds, and loaves of bread were 6p. A simpler time, when the only orange you might get all year was at Christmas, and you had to close the curtains to see the one channel on the television set. Hayward tells us stories of her parents, grandmother, and brother in their little Welsh cottage, of her mother doing laundry with a washboard and mangle, of her grandmother’s annoyance at characters on the Archers, and she does this punctuated with songs of the time. ‘The Little White Duck’, ‘Out of Town’, and ‘Memories Are Made of This’ were accompanied live in the first week by a pianist, and now are recorded and run off a computer with assistance from Hayward’s husband, Keith.
Hayward welcomes tales from her audience as well, and sometimes she adds those memories to her show. One man recalled, with tears in his eyes, how his mother once made him a coon-skin cap out of her fur coat so he could look like Davey Crockett. Another told of the London Fog of 1952, when his father, a bus driver, had to be led down his route by a man with a torch guiding the way. The songs especially stir memories in those who can be brought back to the time of their origin, but I defy anyone of any age to not be moved when Hayward sings, “Blow me a kiss from across the room” and her husband beside her does so. It is the sincerity of Hayward’s performance that draws you in, and her expressive face keeps you rapt. Even the moments she is ad-libbing with audience members feel like every word comes from a place of knowledge and eloquence. You might expect something like this show to be a bit “kids these days”, but Hayward and her husband express real compassion and understanding for today’s youth. They are not making a case for things being simpler and therefor the only way things should ever be. They are lovely hosts to one and all who turn up.
‘Memories of the Early 1950s’ is not a big production. There are no sets, no lighting, and there are no flashy costumes or musical arrangements. Christine Hayward’s show is an intimate recreation of what it must have been like to sit in her Welsh cottage growing up, singing songs around a piano after dinner with her family. It is a gentle hand taking you back in time, giving you a moment to sit and enjoy a break from the hustle and bustle. It is one of those rare things that makes the Fringe special: a real connection with another person, another artist. “Interview your parents, your grandparents,” Hayward says. “They are your history.” My grandparents are gone, and I am American, so had no British grandparents to interview. This was the next best thing, and I feel lucky Christine Hayward took the time to bring me on a journey into her childhood. I had a lovely stay.