Palace of Varieties
Blue Fire Theatre Co.
Mary Wallace Theatre - 28 July 2018
Spice for the Red Peppers
Palace of Varieties
Blue Fire Theatre supporting company at Mary Wallace Theatre, Twickenham, 28th July.
Review by Mark Aspen
Oh, the roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd! You are in a music hall variety show, ready for your act to wow the waiting audience. George and Lily Pepper bicker in the dressing room, but here we are watching from the wings as the adrenaline mounts. And so it is was for Saturday’s audience at the Mary Wallace Theatre waiting for Noel Coward’s Red Peppers in Blue Fire’s preview of its forthcoming Edinburgh Fringe offering.
The surprise first course before the spicy dish of Red Peppers, was a visit to the Palace of Varieties at that gritty mill town where George and Lily’s show is on tour. Our Compere Daniel Wain, introduced the turns with his wonted style of punchy panache.
The pace was set by the full throated jazz singing of Hannah-May Lucas with All that Jazz from Chicago the Musical. The description of 1920’s Chicago, “where the gin is cold, but the piano's hot!”, could have applied equally to the Mary Wallace, where musical director Carole Smith’s electric piano accompanied all the singers. Further down the programme was our second lady singer, Heather Stockwell, “The Sophisticated Songstress of Shepperton”, in a beautifully contrasting songs-from-the-shows style. The approach now was soft and honeyed, numbers from The King and I. But the girls did not hog all the limelight, for the last item on the Palace of Varieties bill was Andrew Truluck, the “Virtuoso of the Vocal Chords”. We were treated to yet another approach to the songs of the musicals … and of the music halls.
The singers parenthesised an entirely different musical genre, classical guitar, played with remarkable dexterity by Luke Taylor. In a complex piece and with concentrated precision, he evoked a vision of sparkling water on hot summer’s day that was the reality outside of the theatre.
As Palace of Varieties was intended as lead in to Blue Fire’s Red Peppers, Noël Coward was never far away, and the musical offers were interspersed with excerpts from another of Coward’s cycle of the short plays from the Tonight at 8:30 series, Ways and Means. The main protagonists, heiress Stella Cartwright and her gambling-addicted husband Toby, were played by Mia Skytte-Jensen and Daniel Wain, described modestly by Wain (in his compere role) as the Olivier and Leigh of Twickenham… …
Read Mark Aspen’s full review at www.markaspen.wordpress.com/2018/07/31/palace-of-varieties
Blue Fire Theatre supporting company at Mary Walla