Edinburgh Fringe 2011
Full of life, love and laughter, Beryl Reid invites s in for a bit of banter and the opportunity to revisit some of her characters. Set in her home where she cooks and involves some audience participation the performance never does anything less than entertain but you leave knowing as much about the woman as you did when you entered.
I was brought up by older parents who were steeped in the tradition of music hall. They praised Bless this House and disparaged Monty Python. Beryl Reid was a favourite. Though by the time I came along she was not a staple diet on the TV and her bit parts were exposed rarely in repeats. Her time had all but come and gone. The script is loose allowing plenty of scope for interaction. The fact that a 3 course meal is prepared and served onstage thanks to 3 of Beryl Reid’s comedy creations cannot detract from the fact that this allows a re examination of Reid’s comic creation based on her comedy rather than an exploration of Beryl Reid herself.
Thing is she was a game old bird and there must be tales to be told as she had plenty of men hanging round. We have had the biopics of the likes of Hughie Green and Hattie Jacques with perhaps too much spilled but here we do not have enough to get beyond the 1970’s feel of it all.
The set has a functionality about it as it literally serves us up a dish or three. The production has a competent air and we see acting that can use the unpredictability of audience interaction well, working off it but not being able to involve it in anything like the slick and seemless work of many other characters – like Beryl herself.
As a one woman play – there are few of them about – there is a lack of real pathos beyond the material being presented. I was engaged by Beryl but wanted more of the person and les s of the characters. It doesn’t really add much to the canon of one woman plays which is a shame because if anyone would be prime material for adding to young women’s understanding of the process of acting would be Beryl Reid.
I wanted to enjoy this much more than I did. This is probably because I was looking for more about the woman behind the characters. I wanted to love this nostalgia but became more frustrated. I cannot fault the performance because it was a version of Beryl Reid which I enjoyed. I came to the view it was no more than 3 stars as I would recommend it to people looking for an hours worth of good light entertainment.