Lloyd Evans is the extremely talented writer responsible for a new Edinburgh Fringe show: Cherie – My Struggle, playing at the V119 Imagination Workshop hub this year. We asked Lloyd if he would be willing to write a few lines about how he came up with the show, and why the Imagination Workshop hub worked so well for the piece and its concept. I won’t ramble on any further, Lloyd’s blog below…
There is something impactful, immersive, a lingering feeling of truthfulness when a piece of theatre is set in its intended environment. Not the typical dark stage, bright lights, but a space that speaks to the characters and story. That’s why I was delighted to find the on Workshop at The George Hotel in George Street, because a lovely room in a 5-star hotel is just the kind of location where the real Cherie Blair would appear nowadays. I was immediately able to imagine Cherie sitting in the hotel lobby, drink in hand. It felt like the perfect way to tell her story.
Coming to writing her story was obvious. I almost stumbled into it. It started with a joke. I was watching a play, ‘A View From the Foothills’, adapted from the diaries of Chris Mullin MP, and there was a scene at a Downing Street reception where Cherie was asked what Tony Blair planned to do when he left politics. ‘I married an idealist,’ she said ruefully, ‘when Tony resigns he’s going to be a teacher in Africa.’ It got the biggest laugh of the night. And it set me thinking. Perhaps I could write a play full of jokes and gossip about the New Labour years which told the story from an insider’s perspective. But which insider? Cherie herself seemed the ideal choice. She was there from the start. She had a ring-side seat throughout Tony’s ten years in office. And her character had never been portrayed on stage so I had the freedom to create her personality from scratch. And because her treatment by the press had been relentlessly hostile, I also had a chance to correct people’s misconceptions and to show her in a sympathetic light.
The nagging impresario inside me kept pointing out an additional advantage to the Cherie ‘brand’. She belongs to a tiny group of personalities who are known by a single name alone – Buddha, Jesus, Gandhi, Elvis, Liberace …. and Cherie. The word ‘Blair’ doesn’t appear in our publicity material.
As I investigated her childhood I found a wealth of dramatic material. Her dad, Tony Booth, was a famous sitcom actor who abandoned Cherie and her mother, and went off in search of fame and fun. ‘Crumpeteering’, he called it. Cherie’s mother, Gale Booth, had studied at Rada and she might have enjoyed a big career on stage but her husband’s philandering left her as a single parent with the sole responsibility for Cherie and her younger sister, Lindsay. Rather than starring in the West End, Cherie’s mum was condemned to working in a fish-and-chip shop to make ends meet.
Cherie excelled at school. She got straight As in her O-levels (now GCSES). She matched that achievement in her four A-levels. She studied law at the London School of Economics and won the top degree in her year. When she took her bar exams she came top again.
Her attraction to Tony Blair, a fellow barrister, was influenced by their shared passion for left-wing politics. But he was a recent convert to the cause. Cherie was a lifelong Labour supporter. At the age of 14, when asked what she wanted to be as an adult, she said, ‘prime minister.’ When Tony Blair was asked that question at the same age, he said, ‘Mick Jagger.’
After they married, they both stood for parliament in the 1983 General Election. Tony won. Cherie failed to get a seat. Some say this early end to her political career still rankles with her.
Today Cherie is an international human rights lawyer who gives lectures about women’s issues all over the world. In this short piece I haven’t had space to cram in all the gags and gossip I came across in the course of my researches. My favourite discovery is the pen-name used by Alistair Campbell when he was a writer of erotic fiction. If you want to find out his nom-de-plume, come and see the show.
Cherie – My Struggle is playing at V119 – Imagination Workshop, George Hotel, George street from 2-25 August (excluding 9, 19 Aug) at 10:30am (60 mins). Tickets are £10pp.
Book direct through www.imagination-workshop.com | 0131 507 0669 | firstname.lastname@example.org