Dusty Won’t Play
Oran Mor, Glasgow
June 17 – 22, 2019
Today’s set was a marvellous confection of soft frilly orange material at the back with red on either side, with something of the look of a stall at the circus. And following on the big background came the big music as we were introduced to the inimitable Dusty Springfield who glided on stage and into song. A tribute to Dusty’s famous 1964 tour of South Africa, this play was written by well-known comedy writer and children’s author Annie Caulfield and is making its second appearance at Oran Mor, the first one being back in 2017.
Frances Thorburn as Dusty – at the height of her fame – passionately refused to go on tour in South Africa and play to segregated audiences. According to the law they would only be playing to segregated audiences, basically a gig without black people. Music and dialogue intertwined with lighting effects to build the plot, a story hard to hear for modern sensibilities.
Kevin Lennon and Andy Clark both shared a number of roles, not least Clark’s portrayal of the South African Policeman, out for Dusty’s blood because of his zealous dedication to the extremes of South African apartheid law. Lennon played both Dusty’s band member and her Manager, working hard at watching Dusty’s back and making a very good job of it. They played a gig in Johannesburg to both white and black people where Dusty out-performed herself.
Frances Thorburn’s portrayal of Dusty captured all the magic and power of that unique voice, together with that legendary star quality which she used to battle over great opposition and in the end to triumph over it. Not that she didn’t have many moments of doubt, especially when she and her band found themselves in some seriously sticky situations – this was a South Africa that could be hostile and inhospitable. But in the end they stood firm; with Dusty at the wheel they all found themselves fighting for nothing less than human dignity, or at the very least raising awareness of the issues.
In the songs we laughed, we cried, we were treated to a voice that sang from somewhere beyond, and we laughed at the jokes. With the final iconic song ringing in our ears, we were left thinking that choosing Dusty’s legend was a great way of showcasing the sort of problems we see the world over, because everything changes and everything stays the same…