I PLAY FOR ME
by David Cantor
KATHY KIRBY: ICON
by Tom O’Brien.
The White Bear Theatre
138 Kennington Road, London SE11 4DJ to 8 November 2015.
Tues-Sat 7.30pm Sun 4pm. Mat Sat 31 October & 7 November 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 10 mins One interval.
Review: William Russell 22 October.
Kathy Comes Back
This double bill is obviously necessary given the length of the two plays but I Play for Me is most odd and almost sinks the evening. It is about a young rock singer fleeing from fame on a cross channel ferry; he meets a boy running away from domestic abuse. As a show case for the talents of Eddie Mann, the rock god intent on doing his own thing and Harry McLeod, the half mad boy, it works well enough. Both are very good indeed.
But apart from a fleeting appearance by Kathy Kirby, apparently performing off stage, and her manager Bert Ambrose, offering unwanted advice to the rock god, it is a pretty pointless affair, one of those leave at the interval pieces.
However, persist, because the second play, Kathy Kirby: Icon, while bizarre and surreal to say the least, provides a touching glimpse of what happened to Kirby, the golden girl of popular song in the 1960s, whose career disintegrated after Ambrose’s death.
He was a successful band leader forty years her senior who became her manager and lover. He was married and refused to divorce. He also, as she discovered after his death, had spent all her money.
Maggie Lynne as Kathy in her hey day sings the songs, looking like peaches and cream, demonstrating why Kirby was so popular. Like Kirby she can sing ballads as they should be sung – while Tina Jones is deeply moving as the ageing down on her luck recluse Kathy living on benefits and a little help from friends.
The goings on are, however, bizarre to say the least notably when the dead Ambrose returns in his coffin to discuss life with his mistress who, when that forty year gap proved unbridgeable, had affairs with, among others, Bruce Forsyth and Tom Jones. It could be slicker but it is very well played and Harry McLeod, a stick insect of a lad who can certainly move, again makes an impression in a couple of supporting roles.
Jeremy Gagan is suitably svelte but creepy as Ambrose and the play does its subject no disservice but it does need a better companion piece. Kirby, who died in 2011, had a car crash of a career. She should have been a survivor.
I Play for Me
Palais Theatre MD: Lloyd Morris.
Elliott Figueroa: Eddie Mann.
Billy-Boy: Harry McLeod.
Sound Engineer: Lloyd Morris.
Kathy Kirby: Maggie Lynne.
Bert Ambrose: Jeremy Gagan.
Anna: Abi O’Keiffe.
Kathy Kirby: Icon.
Young Kathy: Maggie Lynne.
Kathy: Tina Jones.
MJ: Lloyd Morris.
Bruce/1st Undertaker’s assistant/TV studio assistant: Harry Mcleod.
Bert Ambrose: Jeremy Gagan.
2nd Undertaker’s assistant: Michael Scott Wiseman.
Director: Tim Heath.
Musical Director & Sound Engineer: Lloyd Morris.
Musical Supervisor: James Cleeve.
Design: David Shields.
Lighting: Elliott Mountford.
Choreography: Karen Halliday.