Edinburgh Festival Fringe theatre review: Joan, Babs & Shelagh Too, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Paul Whitelaw.
Joan Littlewood changed the face of British theatre. A pioneering director with an uncompromising, politically charged vision, she dragged it into the modern age with ground-breaking productions such as A Taste Of Honey and Oh, What A Lovely War! She was also notorious for her formidable personality. Ask any actor who worked under her – their names and achievements are legion – and they’ll testify to her expletive-strewn unwillingness to suffer fools.
A fascinating character, then, and the ideal subject for a play. And while Joan, Babs & Shelagh Too is far from ideal – partly by haphazard design – it’s an unconventional tribute that, perhaps, in her way, she’d approve of. A one-woman production starring actress Gem Skii, it attempts to chronicle her remarkable life in a loose, semi-improvised manner that reveals much while leaving perplexing, frustrating holes.
Skii, who narrates in the style of a personable school mistress in love with her subject, slips in and out of multiple characters as she walks, sings and dances the audience through Littlewood’s eventful saga. So eventful, in fact, the show struggles to find focus.
But it’s charmingly ragged; an interesting mess. It has a curious spirit that lingers.
Zoo Southside (Venue 82) until 31 August / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 13 August 2015
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