Tales My Lover Told Me

Sunday, 2 November, 1997

My idea and motive was to be at The King's Head Theatre, to see TALES MY LOVER TOLD ME by Chris Burgess and Sarah Travis, and to get as close to Lindsey Danvers as possible, now she's finished playing Elaine Paige's role Grizabella in CATS.

Lindsey is very strokable, and in the intimacy of the delightful King's Head, depite being close enough to give her a deeply invigorating and beneficial toning, I had to sit with others watching her being ill-treated by a long haired git called James Staddon -playing the role of Steve so effectively I wanted to put the rotweilers on him.

That wasn't the only problem.

I'd finessed my way to the front of house - close enough to dispense with my ear trumpet - only to find I was sharing a table with a mother and daughter combination named Muriel and Wendy. With names like that I should have known they were from Canada, so they weren't amused when I accused them of coming from America.

The six-hander TALES MY LOVER TOLD ME, like the ill-fated MADDIE , owes much to support from the Mercury Workshop - and the discontinued Buxton Opera House Quest For New Musicals. Despite the very obvious attributes of this play, I hope the creators and managers will keep the close, warm, memories of the Islington experience as a guide to taking it on for the success which will undoubtedly follow.

Three strategically challenged women, Lesley (Susie Blake), Laura (Lindsey Danvers) and Jean (Sue Kelvin) are muckers in every aspect of their intertwined lives, but especially in their relationships with men. The dynamic, recently divorced, Lesley is setting herself up for becoming a serial vandaliser - despite having laudable principles like not cavorting with married men or errant erratics.

Having said that, she flashes a visiting card out of her scanties as quickly as it would take for her to drop them - when she realises that David (Mark Adams) will soon be released from his marital incarceration. I was much impressed with Mark Adams. He is gifted with more than acting ability and natural charm - and must have been near the front of the queue when they dolled out the face masks. I hope he's got a film agent.

The superficial equanimity of Lesley and Laura is balanced by the totally neurotic Jean (Sue Kelvin), a Miriam Margoles lookalike, in her twisting encounters with another blisteringly besotted and talented actor, Perry (James Pickering). He feels as strongly about dogs, as I do about people who play cats, which is why Jean kicks him out of her life before she realises he's left his visiting card in the shape of an expanding womb. Every one of the relationships is finely worked within the plot and in the beautifully sung songs. Not a bum note from anyone. The simple staging, which has to accommodate a widely configured cast is highly effective. My only complaint about any aspect of the play would be that the cast doesn't adequately milk the laughs for the many one-liners. Preserving a balance between maintaining pace and stopping to smell the flowers is a yardstick of good stagecraft.

I liked Jean's character. Despite seeing everyone in bed except her, you would know that a marriage to her would be delicious but tempestously short, unless you could hang on to the love handles long enough to run her batteries down.

In a play like this the cast works hard covering other roles, which at least shows Steve (James Staddon) as a fellow member of the human race. In his main role he is a dirty, leather loving slob who bends over backwards to alienate people like me with his treatment of the unfailingly loyal Laura. The swine.

My old friends from Canada see nothing like this form of dramatic work in their home country. It's an absolute gem, directed by the writer Chris Burgess, which will undoubtedly run until the end of November.

Come to think of it I owe the writers something. The Canadians were so impressed they allowed me to put on the nosebags with them, at another monument to colonial conviviality - the local curry shop. They fought hard with me over the bill, until I eventually won the battle - and they paid.

I felt like stroking them, too.

Not everyone can expect to meet Canadian ravers at the King's Head, but even if you don't, you'll have a wonderful time there with TALES MY LOVER TOLD ME.

(John Timperley)

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