Marie Lloyd Stole My Life
Script: Stagecraft: Performance:
Edinburgh’s Space on the Mile had an intimate feel as we entered, with the stage taking up a large proportion of the room and seats on two sides. Before the show began, a man in a tuxedo played very gently on the piano, conjuring songs the more elderly audience members recognised. He would soon be joined by actress Lottie Walker, who graced the stage in the persona of Nelly Power, famous star of musical hall and pantomime. Resplendent in her fancy, 19th century, green velvet dress – with lots of frills and ornamentation – Nelly launched straight into dialogue. Her down-to-earth cockney accent was coupled with a beautiful smooth voice and delicate posturing. She was a performer famous througout London town. She knew of a great many things, not least how to navigate life’s rich scenes, to move in the right circles. This Victorian songstress was far from cold or nervous. In fact she was as warm and welcoming as the gentle songs that interspersed the play, many of which had great meaning for her.
Having captured us in a moment, Nelly held us in her careful hands for the next 45 minutes, telling us not only about her life, but also capably dispensing support and advice. Even as she described failed relationships she seemed to have already forgiven any wrong-doing. She didn’t seem to have any qualms even about her husband beating her, it just seemed to bring out humbleness without even a need to be upset. A century and more ago, people for the most part didn’t live much past 35, so there perhaps was no place for feelings of revenge.
Nelly’s career spanned decades and she accomplished much to be proud of, though “nothing to be vain about”. On the contrary, she’d lend a helping hand on more than one occasion to other artists and performers who were struggling to be someone, to make it. Especially, she would find inspiring words to encourage budding talent. Her purpose seemed full of love like a bouquet of posies; she was neither overpowering nor to be taken for a fool. Her songs, accompanied on the piano, were light, and her voice just as charming, inviting those of us who knew the words to join in.
Nelly was a strong and feisty woman and so is J.J. Leppink, who has woven in the social history of the suffragist movement to the play and also conveys the submersive element of Music Hall in Nelly’s dialogue. Lottie Walker
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There was something about this show that was endearing and beautiful, a period piece that stood without history, yet with a definite past. Nelly’s personality shone through, a strong and generous soul, an example of balance, honesty and even trustworthiness.
Even in the end, when a woman called Marie Lloyd successfully stole what seemed like Nelly’s whole life and reputation, Nelly simply replied “maybe she’s better than me”. The Blue Fire Theatre Company’s production has intricate, imaginative dialogue, delivered to perfection with heart-breaking warmth. A definite YES! from me.