Dangerous Lady!

Pre children and I was often to be found in the theatre, be it performing myself or watching a play. Post babies and I don’t often get the chance these days unless it’s to see something which is for the children. Don’t get me wrong, I love the shows we see as a family, theatre, all theatre is very important to me but sometimes it’s nice to go and watch something which doesn’t have characters with names like Iggle Piggle and Peppa Pig. Having trained at Italia Conti which is mainly geared up for musical theatre I am rather partial to the odd musical but sometimes, to take me out of myself I find a really good play is just the ticket! Watching theatre is so completely different to slumping in front of the television, it’s glamorous and exciting and with the fact that it’s live it means adrenalin is surging through the building. Even as an audience member you can feel the anticipation and tingle in the air, live theatre is exciting. Of course if it’s a very good play and performed in a very good theatre, all the better! I have even felt pleased that I’ve been when I’ve seen something I’ve not enjoyed so when I find a play I have had an electric time watching I leave with a grin on my face and have to spread the word! The other thing I love about theatre is local theatre and for me, that would be Stratford East Theatre Royal, which is of course in Stratford, East London, home of the London 2012 Olympics and a whole host of other exciting things these days! Time was and East London was the cheap place to be. It was known for docking and being bombed in the war because of the docks and people with eclectic and artistic natures would not have automatically been drawn here but these days, these days it’s a different story. Today, with the East End as bright and engaging as it is and with so much to visit for, it is (Statford especially) a hive of activity! What better place to visit the theatre and for lucky old me it’s on my doorstep!

I’ve been to Stratford East before and because the theatre is so beautiful, the building dates back to 1884, it is always an exhilarating place to be. Even just waiting for curtain up is an experience to be savoured. There quite literally isn’t a bad seat in the house and with ticket prices starting at just £5 it can’t be beaten really! The way the seats are on all three levels means that even at the furthest away you still feel close to the stage and as if you are part of the action rather than just watching it! Of course to feel that totally, the matter you are watching has to be good but I’ve never seen anything which doesn’t stand up to my expectations here and I have to say the latest offering, a play adaption of Martina Cole’s Dangerous Lady has not been the first to disappoint me! Like I said, I’m a bit of a musical theatre lover and even though I do naturally enjoy a good play, I wouldn’t say it would be my first choice to go see one about gangland East London with villainy and corruption the order of the day. I had tended to think such topics wouldn’t really take me out of myself. I’ve never read a Martina Cole book (unlike my companion who has read a few including this one) as I usually opt for the more chick lit variety of reading; it wasn’t something on my radar. Boy am I glad I blog and was invited to come see the show because I left with that smile firmly planted on my face!

Firstly, this play is funny. Yes you heard me right, there is violence and the story line isn’t pretty. It involved some gruesome and quite shocking scenes but interspersed with the chilling tale comes easy laughter which is entirely down to the skill of the actors. A relatively small cast of 11 did a superb job of playing more than their main roles and it wasn’t until I consulted the programme that I realised Dale Rapley plays Harris the police chief alongside his main character of Geoffrey, one of the Kray like brothers at the heart of the story. Patrick Prior has taken this book 20 years after it was first published and adapted it for stage with such grace. My friend said she didn’t notice differences from the book as she had expected to and thought it had been transferred very well indeed. As a newcomer to the story line I certainly didn’t feel I was missing any of the story which takes us through the decades from the 1950’s to the 1980’s with all the fashions of the eras on display. I particularly enjoyed watching the changing costumes of the main character Maura, when she had them on! The actress, Claire-Louise Cordwell was utterly, utterly brilliant in her portrayal of an innocent little girl in her teens being hardened and changed by the circumstances of her corrupted family of brothers and the warped idealisations of her staunchly Catholic and deluded Mother. How can you love a son even if he is a murderer and his life choices go against everything your religion believes in when you would take away your daughter’s happiness to serve your own beliefs? It’s a question which was posed by the being of the character Sarah who plays the mobster brothers and Maura’s Mother. This actress, Veronica Quilligan, is something else! She had me laughing with her, empathising for her circumstance and damn right hating her for her actions! I was on the edge of my seat with her performance from the minute she burst on to stage in the opening scene in the throes of labour until the bitter end.

The actors, all the actors gave extremely strong performances which left me thinking about what I’d seen for a long time afterwards. The believability is partly down to the direction of Lisa Goldman and her creative team who supplied wonderful scenery and set in a minimalistic manner with changes that were unnoticeable but of course the cast has to have the standing ovation! So the story I’ve described, the murder and corruption of an innocent young girl’s interpretation on the world, changing her into a dark and loathsome character by nearly the end of the play doesn’t sound too much like it would take you out of yourself does it? But it does, and the comedy which is largely provided by Michael and his brother Geoffrey. (The third brother Anthony is far more dark) is not to be over-looked. The character of Michael, played by James Clyde, is the leader of the family and business and although sinister and to be feared, his camp-ness and slight wink to Boycey from Only Fools and Horses provides many laugh out loud moments. We can see how he really is just the lost little boy loved by his Mamma and the dark soul that lurks beneath is not who he thinks of himself as. He ruins the life of the sister he loves so dearly and turns her into a parody of himself. As we watch Maura’s life go from bad to worse, losing the love of her life and worse at mostly Michael’s hands we can see from the outside why she has not been able to have the same vision. The relationship Maura and Michael share is strange and passionate and one only they can understand, it’s not even to be penetrated by the rest of the family who are left reeling at it most of the time let alone the man she falls in love with. (Her romatic interest Terry is very easy on the eye and you root for the couple even when you just know they’ve past the point of no return).

This is a complicated play with a story to shake you and an ending that leaves you entirely satisfied! It was an absolute pleasure to see this on preview this week and as a rare night out on my own without the little ones it wasn’t wasted at all! Tickets are on sale now and the run lasts Until November 17th 2012!