ROLL OUT THE BERYL: Elaine Pantling.
Touring Info: Laurielorry Theatre.
Runs: 1h 45m: one interval.
Review: Lakeside Arts centre, Nottingham, Alan Geary: 7th October 2011.
Not an unqualified success but worth a look.
Roll Out the Beryl wasn’t an unqualified success – the acting, and indeed singing, weren’t all they might have been – but it was nevertheless worth the longer than usual drive through Nottingham’s Goose Fair traffic out to the Lakeside.
The evening might well have been lost on people who don’t remember Beryl Reid and all those wireless shows she was associated with as far back as the forties. But it definitely wasn’t by those who grew up with Marlene, Monica and all her other caricatures. Writer/actor Elaine Pantling doesn’t offer a close impersonation of Marlene, the girl from Birmingham, but she’s certainly with us in spirit.
This isn’t a straightforward monologue but a play with a Mancunian accent set in the eccentric Honeypot Cottage on the Thames at Wraysbury. Reid was living there alone near the end of her life. Pantling uses sundry props – clothes, well-stocked shoe rack, bits and pieces of chairs and table – to act her subject’s life.
Simultaneously – and it’s not clear why – Beryl cooks, or rather puts the finishing touches to, a simple meal. She press ganged a hapless couple from the audience down on stage to sit and consume it.
A hint of pathos is introduced right at the start when Beryl tells us she had no children but has ten cats instead. It’s a feature that permeates the whole of the rest of the show. “I just want to love and be loved”, she tells us.
And when it later transpires that she has had two unsuccessful marriages it’s clear that Pantling wants us to think of her subject’s life as a lonely and unfulfilled one. On the evidence of this show, which is historically reliable, it’s likely that it was just that.
Beryl Reid: Elaine Pantling.
Director: Isabel Ford.