Reviews: Marie

Review by: York Evening Press

Marie at the York Theatre Royal

Outrageous music hall legend's revival

Elizabeth Mansfield knows this tribute show like the back of her gloved hand.

She and partner Steve Trafford, writer and co-director, first produced this biographical drama of the Queen of the Music Halls in 1987, aptly at the last bastion of such entertainment, Leeds City Varieties.

The West End and an Olivier Award nomination ensued and so too did a new version in 2000, and now Miss Mansfield is re-re-discovering MARIE once more with pianist Stephen Rose by her side.

The script and even the Sheila Godbolt costumes come alive again from the West End production, and while one of British theatre's best solo performers may be putting on old clothes once more, MARIE is as fresh, informative, nostalgic, humourous, sad, ghostly, warm and wonderful and full of life and pathos, song and golden history, as it ever was.

The new ingredient is that Miss Mansfield is now much closer in age to the character she plays, as Marie Lloyd looks back on a career behind the spotlights and in the headlines from the closing chapter backwards, nursing a decanter to emptiness in her dressing room.

The Mansfield eyes still sparkle, but they are inevitably lined too and the powders of parts past inform her gilded performance, making it all the more moving.

Outspoken, outrageous, Marie Lloyd is still out there thanks to this fabulous revival.

Charles Hutchinson

Friday September 12 2008

Review by: The Pocklington Post

Marie at the York Theatre Royal

Marie Lloyd was the greatest music-hall artist of her time in England, and although there is no film of her to preserve her style, Marie- The Story of Marie Lloyd production does a great job of capturing the bright and bawdy, alive and exciting world of real Music Hall.

Marie was first produced by Elizabeth Mansfield and writer Steve Trafford in 1987. Elizabeth received an Olivier Award nomination as "Best Actress in a Musical" in 1996 for her performance of this show at the Fortune Theatre, in London's West End.

Her performance on Press Night at The Studio showed why she'd been nominated - she was outstanding, stepping effortlessly into the shoes of Marie, "The Queen of the Halls" and establishing an instant rapport with her audience. Her costume changes in full view were worthy of a burlesque performance, and added to the atmosphere of beer and bawdy.

Talented pianist Stephen Rose accompanied Elizabeth Mansfield's throughout the show, becoming an integral part of the story as she delighted us with song after song. We gained a fascinating insight into the late Victorian and Edwardian eras, and shared Marie's joys and sorrows through narrative and music.

A most entertaining, unique show.

Julia Pattison

Saturday September 13 2008

Review by: The British Theatre Guide

Marie at the York Theatre Royal

Marie Lloyd was a woman of many parts, 'most of them no longer manufactured' as she says with a wink at her adoring audience. Known as the Queen of the Music Halls, Lloyd performed her 'saucy' songs to huge crowds in the Late Victorian and Edwardian eras, touring her acts worldwide to great success. With a fantastically independent and candid attitude to life, she was born to perform, starting out aged 12 singing in temperance halls and her life ending after she finally collapsed on stage aged 52 and died three days later.

Performed by Oliver Award nominee Elizabeth Mansfield, accompanied by Stephen Rose on the piano, this is both an enchantingly intimate show giving us the personal life of Marie yet managing to create a fascinating glimpse into the raucous atmosphere of the real music halls. Mansfield is sublime as Marie Lloyd, charming with her cheeky smiles and applaudable honesty but also fantastically naughty in her hilarious rendition of 'Come into the Garden Maud'. In a simple set of footlights, red velvet curtain, a large brandy and her many, bright costumes Mansfield strips down to her corset and bloomers and gives us a woman brim full of life and generosity. Such was Marie Lloyd's infamous character that the audience is almost swept up into her to become just another extension of her huge personality and

Mansfield does just that by inviting her fans to join in as she sings her hit songs.

As she sings classics like 'Don't Dilly Dally on the Way', 'Oh! Mr Porter' and 'A Little of What You Fancy Does You Good', writer Steve Trafford seamlessly works these pieces into the tale of Marie's life. While these songs may be easily recognizable to a more mature audience, they carry less weight and familiarity with younger theatre goers. This is not to deny their appeal, but it does open avenues for a nostalgia trip for some and not for others. However the story of Marie Lloyd is still one of an exceptional woman who lived her life flouting the hypocritical conventions of her time and making her mark wherever she went.

There is almost not enough time to tell all the tales of Marie Lloyd's life in this piece with some of her darker moments rather scantily depicted but this is the story of a good-time, show-stopping performer and Mansfield brilliantly maintains the spirit of the relentless entertainer throughout. With perfect joie de vivre Trafford's writing and Mansfield's performance leaves you wishing you could really have known the irresistible atmosphere of the amazing music halls. When she sings Lloyd's signature piece 'The Boy I Love is Up In the Gallery' there's no doubt you can see him in your mind's eye waving back at her with all his might.

Cecily Boys

Friday September 12 2008

Review by: The Stage

Marie at the York Theatre Royal

Anyone considering writing or appearing in a biographical play, especially one with a singer as its subject, should see this production and learn.

Steve Trafford s look at the life of Marie Lloyd, the Queen of the Halls, enthrals, entertains and informs without seeming like a history lesson. Indeed, hardly a date is mentioned. When famous names pop up in the narrative, their inclusion does not seem contrived, as is so often the case. When the play is over, the audience leaves with a greater understanding of the impact of Lloyd on popular entertainment.

Exposition is kept spare but purposeful. Elizabeth Mansfield, as Marie, describes the music hall atmosphere in three or four lines of dialogue and immediately the audience can see, hear and smell a crowded music hall.

Mansfield is as spiky and wonderfully bawdy as Lloyd was. The songs are made very much part of the narrative and many are sung, as was the fashion, with an opening spoken verse. Mansfield has the audience joining in the chorus and, at the same time, enjoying her performance and voice - the very essence of music hall. She confides in the audience just as a music hall star would.

Piano accompanist Stephen Rose plays for most of the running time, as vigorously or as plaintively as is required. So, this revival of the original West End production is a triumph for performer, playwright and pianist. No previous knowledge of Marie Lloyd is required. To miss it would be a huge mistake.

Kevin Berry

Monday 8 September 2008

Review by: UK Theatre Net

Marie at the York Theatre Royal

When Elizabeth Mansfield first played Marie Lloyd in the 1980s she won a whole galaxy of awards for it. Now reprising the role, in Steve Trafford's inspired one-hander, she is as good as ever, and one can only marvel at the sheer sparkling bravura of her performance bringing to very life the 'Queen of the Halls' – just as, incidentally, her Piaf reincarnated the Little Sparrow.

Accompanied on piano by Stephen Rose, Mansfield holds her audience spellbound as she modulates in and out of Marie Lloyd's act, belting out her wonderful songs, firing off her famous monologues full of quick-fire repartee and outrageous (for the time) innuendoes.

Her songs are simply magnificent affairs with all the cheerful Cockney optisim and sauciness mixed with occasional sadness and self-recognition. Besides being a very good tune, 'The boy I love is up in the gallery' possesses lyrical tenderness. 'Twiggy Voo', meaning in modern speak nudge-nudge, wink-wink, is both saucy and subtle. Of course, 'Don't dilly dally on the way' is the one which has most survived in public consciousness, but for the first time I appreciated its undertow of pathos. It's not just a catchy ditty about getting lost: it has an old English ballad-like quality encapsulating a bygone world of moonlight flitting from one dingy rented place to another; and the consequence for the woman of calling in for a drop of tiddly is probably to have to walk the streets all night.

We are transported back to a world of simple pleasures, of Cockney songs that are warm and as riotously human as Hogarth prints, and of the constant struggle to make ends meet. And there's all those delightful long-gone Edwardian expressions, like 'shilling-willing girls', 'keep yer hand on yer ha'penny, and 'a little bit of what yer fancy...'

We learn, inter alia, about the men in her life, her brushes with authority, her Great War recruiting drive, her unfortunate trip to America. Mansfield's eyes are the most lustrous you could ever see, yet she somehow contrives to dull them as the night wears on and the great star grows older and less self-assured.

All in all this is theatre at its most compelling – a performer of rare quality at the very top of her form, paying homage to one of the greatest talents ever to have graced the popular stage. What ever you do, don't miss it!

Mike Clayton

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