San Francisco Fringe 2017
“When her baby’s taken for adoption, Shurl struggles to find connection in an ever-shifting landscape.”
Shurl is a force of nature, she’s personable, dynamic and part diva! Her set is simple, a chair, cafe table, small clothes rack and a large suitcase. Sue Bevan from England plays Shurl, she also wrote and directed this show, which “weaves her own story with the fantastical tale of a young girl who believes that superstar diva Shirley Bassey can ‘make everything alright’”. It’s a big ask of Bassey, a very popular international entertainer from Wales – where Bevan originally hails from – and then Shurl begins to share!
We hear that to be born Welsh (like Shirley Bassey, Shurl and Sue Bevan) is to be born “”with music in your heart”. With glossy black hair and wearing a bathrobe and dainty shoes Bevan recalls news events from her neighborhood. She is upbeat telling us about her granny and gets emotional in other places. These are well paced stories and descriptions of her memories, Bevan is energetic, compelling and has a strong presence. She relates to the audience with ease – everyone is drawn to her because of her fascinating anecdotes, her self effacing humor and the lovely Welsh lilt in her voice.
Through Shurl, Bevan takes on other characters with physical and vocal changes in front of your eyes. While it all sound idyllic, growing up in the Welsh Valley Shurl describes, there is another side to her childhood, which Bevan clearly articulates. Her snappy pace varies and there are some softer tones of her expressive voice, all beautifully acted, meaningful and emotive. The writing is rich with imagery and the show is well crafted as it unfolds over sixty minutes.
Shurl’s dream is to “grow up and be happy, to have a husband and happy family”. Then she travels around, looking for her dream. Charming anecdotes and funny moments are very entertaining, such as when she figured out how to take her local bus for free. Bevan is a natural actor who not only writes but also plays all sides to her characters, they are multi dimensional. There is a childhood innocence about her when she tells us about her friends over the garden fence. Next the story gets mystical and magical at one point in the woods – but come down to earth dramatically. One or two spine chilling moments are not over sentimental, but the way Bevan performs them, are very touching. Beautifully written and acted.
Lighting changes from cool blue hues to warm orange red light add to the atmosphere and take us far away from sitting in a theatre. Shurl also speaks a few Welsh language words, sings a short song or two and has funny divaish flashes of character as she shares her hopes and dreams, with a few bumps along the way. This show pushes and pulls you in several directions, its full of chatty commentary about life – especially her life – so go and meet Shurl!