I LOVED LUCY
by Lee Tannen.
Jermyn Street Theatre to 27 February
16b Jermyn Street, London SW1Y 6ST to 27 February 2016.
Tues-Sat 7.30pm. Mat Sat & Sun 3.30pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7287 2875.
Review: William Russell 9 February.
Loved Lucy, Loathed Lee
Lucille Ball was a hard working Hollywood star, mostly in B pictures nobody remembers, of the forties and fifties who became the queen of comedy on American television with the series I love Lucy which ran from 1951-57. She played opposite her husband Desi Arnaz and the pair founded Desilu, a production company which went on to produce many memorable television programmes. She took it over after their divorce and was, as well as a power in the world a show business, a much loved star.
This distinctly creepy play has been written by Lee Tannen, a family relation several degrees removed, who became friendly with her during the last ten years of her life and patently basked in starlight by association. We learn little about Ball, but more than anyone would wish to know about Lee who comes across as the sort of man I for one would cross the M25 at rush hour blindfold to avoid.
At one point Lee seems (apart from playing backgammon with Lucy and eating spam sandwiches) to have ended up chastely in her bed. Being gay, this presented no problems. He reflects that he sees himself as Sunset Boulevard’s Joe Gillis face down in he swimming pool. No such luck.
Ball is undeniably interesting and there could be a play worth writing about her. This self indulgent affair is not it.
Sandra Dickinson in a flaming red wig makes a nicely throaty diva, and there is a brief moment in Act Two when as Lucy she reflects on past fame and being loved not for who you are, but who the audience thinks you are, which hints at what might have been. As Tannen Matthew Bunn gives a master class in being loathsome. He claims it is a Valentine to his very own Auntie Mame. Mame was her last Hollywood movie, a musical disaster best forgotten – as is this play.
It does, however, have a rather clever set by Gregor Donnelly.
Lucy: Sandra Dickinson.
Lee: Matthew Bunn.
Director: Anthony Biggs.
Set & Costume Designer: Gregor Donnelly.
Lighting Designer: Charlie Lucas.
Sound Designer: Gareth McLeod.
Choreographer: Sam Spencer-Lane.