BLONDE BOMBSHELLS OF 1943
by Alan Plater.
Upstairs at the Gatehouse Highgate Village N6 4BD To 29 June 2014.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Sun 4pm.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
TICKETS: 0208 340 3488.
Review: William Russell 28 May 2014.
Memories of Ivy cling happily to this play.
Alan Plater’s play about an all-girl band in wartime was inspired by the problems faced by Ivy Benson, the bandleader whose female band was a star act in Second World War Britain. Ivy’s problems included keeping her girls, because among the hazards women faced in wartime Britain were the oversexed, over here GIs who kept taking them away from her.
The play finds Plater, a dramatist of great ability, marking time. He sets the scene brilliantly, sets-up plot points about missing husbands, gay bandleaders and draft-dodging lads and then settles for what is ultimately just another play about putting on a show. But his heart is in the right place, his dialogue inventive and true, and director John Plews has done a splendid job bringing it to life. The evening is a riot of laughs, a few tears and terrific music.
Betty, feisty little leader of the band, is auditioning newcomers to replace musicians lost to the Yanks. She ends-up with a sixth-form schoolgirl, a singing nun, a dim deb WRAC driver and a draft-dodging lad who plays the drums. Cue an air raid.
In act two, scene one they rehearse, and in scene two we get the radio performance they are making from Hull to the troops, with the draft-dodging drummer in drag.
Plews’ first-rate cast sing and play splendidly, pretending to be not very good until that final scene. The last number – the schoolgirl, nun and deb have become the band’s equivalent of the Andrews Sisters – is ‘The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy from Company B’ and it is a riot.
Songs include ‘Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree’, ‘Wish Me Luck as You Wave Me Goodbye’ and many more. It adds-up to a delightful evening of big band sound.
Hints about husbands missing in action, worried wives drinking too much, and the dilemma of the boy reluctant to fight might have been resolved dramatically to considerable effect, but that would make it a different play. As it stands, this one works. Plater as a dramatist knew what he was about and Plews and his cast do him justice.
Elizabeth: Emma Jane Morton.
Betty: Louisa Beadel.
Vera: Ashley Stirling.
May: Eloise Kay.
Grace: Giovanna Ryan.
Lily: Katie Arnstein.
Miranda: Lauren Storer.
Pat: Josh Haberfield.
Director: John Plews.
Designer: Phil Lindley.
Lighting: Aaron J Dootson.
Sound: Jon Rape.
Musical Director: Angharad Sanders.
Costume: Suzi Lombadelli.