SAY IT WITH FLOWERS
by Meic Povey and Johnny Tudor.
Sherman Cymru Senghennydd Road CF24 4YE To 25 May.
Audio-described/Captioned 25 May.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.
then Tour to 15 June 2015.
TICKETS: 029 2064 6900.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 21 May.
Some illumination of art and life mismatched.
Born and dying in Wales Dorothy Squires’ career hit its heights in mid-century London and America. The end was inglorious, as this jointly-authored play emphatically shows, even if it’s unclear on the nature of the downward trajectory.
Squires’ alarm at the 1971 payola (cash or sex for broadcasting records) scandal – broken by Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World, later itself in terminal disgrace – reaches panic level, though the allegation against her was dropped. Yet the fortune she threw at multiple court cases is hardly mentioned.
There’s little glory in Pia Furtado’s production or Georgia Lowe’s set, which divides the stage into two wedges, one realistic, and emphatically drab for the later years where long-term fan Maisie gives the destitute Squires somewhere to stay. Ruth Madoc’s Dot queens it around the dingy room where she’s gone from the street, her life packed in plastic bags.
Moments of appreciation for Lynn Hunter’s enthusiastic Maisie stand amid contempt and dreams of a career comeback. Amid this downbeat present, comes the past – courageous Young Dot setting-out for London, suffering the sexual attention of a bandleader – one of the events in the dark pit of her life shown in the orchestra pit lurking below this side of the stage – making unsuitable relationships and lighting-up the void with her singing.
Gillian Kirkpatrick has the measure of the glory nights, and the unsuitable marriage that left Squires emotionally bereft and vengeful (all those court-cases, if they had been here, might have seemed substitutes for reclaiming the departed husband whose film-star career she’d helped create).
Finally, Furtado and Lowe slide the stage into a single bleak corridor, Squires’ hospital bed stranded in a clinical limbo for the final reckoning with a member of the family she’s ignored.
The life, and songs, make powerful viewing. But there’s not enough to fill the realistic late-life scenes, which seem to hang around too much, their diurnal reality awkward alongside the fantasy-ride stage left. Ultimately, Squires became a sick, deluded old woman, ungiving and unforgiving, Still, there remain audiences for whom it’s enough the show should be about their Dorothy.
Emily: Heledd Gwynn.
Maisie: Lynn Hunter.
Young Dot: Gillian Kirkpatrick.
Old Dot: Ruth Madoc.
Roger: Matt Nalton.
Freddie: Aled Patrick.
Pianist: Dyfan Jones/Greg Palmer.
Director: Pia Furtado.
Designer: Georgia Lowe.
Lighting: Katharine Williams.
Sound: Mike Beer.
Composer/Musical Director: Dyfan Jones.
Assistant director: Julia Thomas.