For Lovers of Dusty

At Theatr Mwldan recently  ‘Call Me Dusty’ a new play about the seventies diva, was performed. The theatre was crowded, evidence of how many people found her interesting enough to discover more about her life. Unfortunately, as the play showed, it was not her life that many fell in love with.It was her voice. Her life was not a happy tale of success and creative joy. It was a sad journey through manic-depression, and a lack of confidence in herself which meant she never trusted in her success and popularity. The review that went in the Tivyside follows, and includes the couple of sentences which were edited out because of the length. 

Call Me Dusty

Call me Dusty, a drama based on Dusty Springfield’s career years, performed at Theatr Mwldan and written by local playwright Derek Webb, was well received by the capacity audience.  Jessica Sandry who took the role of Dusty, gave life to the immense likeability of Dusty from an early age. Her eagerness to please, her charming smile, and her masked shyness, were all apparent from the beginning; as indeed was her ambition. She knew from an early age that she had a ‘voice’, and was very much swayed in the long term by  her love of American music, Tamla Motown, soul and the blues. Alongside Jessica Sandry, two other extremely talented and proficient actors, Jayne Stillman and James Scannell, created between them a host of characters, including parents, management team, the press, and others who were important at different points in her career. Their capacity to bring in a new voice, and a new face were a real testament to their abilities.With the development of the play, the sweet young girl began to display her other less attractive qualities. These were again captured extremely well and with the kind of conviction necessary to carry the audience along with her and bring some understanding to the fact that she was almost certainly seriously bipolar, a condition referred to as ‘manic-depressive’ in those days, and something which we know today afflicts many creative people, performers among them.

There was a lot to love about Dusty, and about the play itself. The stage was cleverly used to present a variety of locations, and the use of archive footage of Dusty herself on the high rear screen, provided some of the most electrifying moments in the play. Hearing again those songs from the sixties and seventies; from Island of Dreams, whilst she was in the Springfields, and later right up to the work with the Pet Shop Boys, her voice still has a quality which is right up to date.

From the charming young girl to the over the top, gorgeous blonde diva with the great bank of blond beehive, and her eyes thickly blackened with liner, shaders and mascaras, it was Dusty Springfield’s voice that everyone loved, and no doubt it was that which brought out such a large and enthusiastic audience at Mwldan, and wherever the play has been produced. The saddest part of Dusty’s life made up the content of the second half of the play and somehow there it lost the momentum built up in the earlier part. Essentially there was more of a ‘telling’ of her life, rather than the action of the earlier scenes. The description of her illness, and her sensitivities was told by others, and somehow rather drawn out. A pity that the wonder of her voice was not the image the audience came away with, but the sad image of a woman in distress struggling to come to terms with losing her fame. Otherwise this was a really successful drama about one of the great singers of our times.

Pint-Sized Plays at Small World

There is an appropriateness is putting something pint-sized into a small world, and the fact is the two together worked brilliantly. 

‘Pint-Sized World’, showing last Saturday at Cardigan’s Small World Theatre, offered a varied programme of inventive and  superbly performed short dramas, all of which were extremely well-received by the audience. These short 5-10 minute plays, were originally intended to be performed in pubs when pint-sized was the brainchild of playwright and author Derek Webb, who introduced them as a novel way of taking the dramatic arts, into an already established, social setting, ergo; The Pub.

Judging by the success of their production at Small World, these performance gems are experiencing no difficulties in progressing into taking over other venues.  Since the early days in 2008 when the majority of the few plays performed came in from local people in West Wales, Pint-Sized Plays has become an international playwriting competition and is hotly contested with entries from, among other places, Australia and the USA besides a regular flow from all parts of the UK.

The plays at Small World were presented by Almost Random Theatre who travelled from Oxford to be there and were joined by local mini-companies. The standard of  performing and directing were first class and the plays which had been selected to be produced were a mixture of this year’s winners and a small selection from past winners.

The great thing about a programme like this, is that each of the plays is completely different from the next, since there is no specific requirement laid down for the competitors, other than that the play’s running time is within the stated length. The evening programme opened with Knight Intruder by Dorothy Lambert, a sitcom style, humorous piece, in which Russ Abbot look-alike Richard James, Cheryl Rayner and Nick Wears, set the bar high in the quality of acting, delivery and how to pace humour, in preparation for that which followed, all of which held up consistently to give some brilliant performances. Directors too are to be congratulated on making imaginative use of small space learnt by working in  pubs.

Some of the plays work better than others, and for a variety of reasons. The surreal offering ‘Anger Management for Dogs’ by Rupert Haigh and played by Kyran Pritchard and Dan Abrams was incredibly funny and hugely enjoyable, for those present who may have loved the Monty Python style humour, and the dog-like characteristics, though for some in the audience it was apparent they were not quite sure what was going on. Were these two actors actually playing dogs, sitting at a table? Yes! Brilliant.

There were four of this year’s winners on the programme, all of them well-received. Brought to Book by Lou Treleaven, Roadkill by Clare Reddaway, Eternity by Elan David Garonzik, and Lifetime by Angie Farrow.‘Pint-Sized World. Volume 1’, an anthology of 20 of the winning plays is available from pintsizedplays.org.uk price 9.99. It is an ideal tool for professional theatre companies, drama groups and school drama classes.

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