DIETRICH – NATURAL DUTY
A One (Wo)man Show
Written by Peter Groom & Oliver Gully
Wilton’s Music Hall, Grace Alley, London E1 8JB to 24 November 2018.
21, 22 Nov 7.45pm, Mat 22 Nov 3pm.23 Nov 6.30pm & 8.30pm, 24 Nov 3pm & 7.45pm.
Runs 60 mins No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7702 2789
Review: William Russell 19 November.
Dietrich at war
Peter Groom, who plays Marlene Dietrich, has, with Oliver Gully, devised a polished and entertaining tribute to one of the great Hollywood legends even if it ignores everything she did in Hollywood, apart from a tantalising reference to Orson Welles for whom she made Touch of Evil, concentrating instead on what she did during the war entertaining the allied troops.
The Dietrich one sees, however, is not that Dietrich but the woman she created with the aid of an amazing body sculpting dress composed of foam rubber and sequins for the cabaret act which she performed when the film roles dried up. Groom has manufactured an impressive facsimile of that Marlene and speak sings several of her songs while rebuffing the questions of an unseen inquisitor and insisting she was simply someone doing a job.
The hausfrau Dietrich who scrubbed floors is part of the legend. We get nothing of the woman who slept with pretty well everyone she wanted to, man or woman, and was ruthless in reinventing herself during her long career. It hardly matters. Audiences today will hardly know the films – they were all with two or three exceptions, one of which is not available, in black and white. But the cabaret Marlene was an image marketed nearly as effectively as Marilyn in her white dress and the songs from her films and elsewhere ranging from Falling in Love Again to Where Have All the Flowers still gone resonate.
It is a carefully honed little show, perfect after dinner entertainment, although it does rather beg the question of just what she got up to while entertaining the troops. Given the rank of captain, she carried a gun, wore uniform or denims – no sequin sheaths on the battlefield and the famous legs were well covered up. She also seems to have slept at the Front in the cold and the mud along with the boys – and possibly with them too – if she is to be believed.
There are a couple of double entendres in her act for the troops which smack a little too much of a drag queen, but what does it matter? Groom, a very accomplished performer, creates a believable person although he messed up his curtain call on the first night, something Marlene would never have done. Her curtain call routine was legendary. She always left her audiences vainly wanting more. So does the elegant Mr Broom.
Marlene: Peter Groom.
The voice of Goebbels: Markus Napier.
Director: Oliver Gully.
Costume design: Kathleen Nellis.
Lighting design: Fraser Craig.
Sound Design: Kieran Lucas.
Hair: Wig Chapel.
Pianist: Mark Aspinall.
Photography: Veronika Marx.