Theatre review: Sid And Valerie

Edinburgh Fringe Scotsman review: Sid And Valerie at Summerhall (Venue 26), reviewed by Joyce McMillan

In my bag, there is a packet of Werther’s Originals, handed out as a parting gift to every member of the audience at this new show by Sue Maclaine and Emma Kilbey; and it’s a strangely appropriate gift, from a performance that offers a skewed and disturbing sideways glance at mid-20th-century British life, and its ever-cheerful showbiz culture.

As veteran entertainer Sid and his fortysomething daughter take the stage, it’s clear from Valerie’s boundlessly expressive face, in Kilbey’s terrific performance, that everything in the garden is not lovely. She hates the old man with the deep, hurt hatred of an unloved daughter who was never the child he wanted; he thinks she is useless, both as a daughter and as a performer, and never hesitates to make his feelings clear.

It’s like a miniature version of John Osborne’s The Entertainer, in other words, this is a show that sets out to reveal the sheer cruelty that lurks behind the smile of the much-loved public entertainer. In an age of searing revelations about what went on behind closed doors in British showbiz circles in the Sixties and Seventies, it comes as a timely reminder that emotional abuse can do at least as much damage.

And it’s all enlivened by a little tap-dancing from the eerily genial Sid, as well as some passionate Shirley Bassey songs from the unhappy Valerie; and by those Werther’s Originals, of course, little packages of dependable pleasure, in an otherwise bleak world.

Originally published in The Scotsman

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