by David Hampshire
Directed by Hayward B. Morse
This is a charming recreation of the days of the Music Hall era in England. It is set in a theatrical boardinghouse in 1935 in Blackpool. The characters are true to their stereotypes, the kind and understanding landlady, her sweet, caring daughter, a comedian, a magician, and a song and dance man. There are very accurate references to what it was like for those who made their living traveling from one town to another, the insecurity, the drinking to ease the pain and always the excitement and hope that the big chance was around the corner.
The production itself is beautifully paced and director Hayward B. Morse uses the very limited space and small stage to advantage. It is well acted with an outstanding performance by Sally Chester, the Landlady’s sweet daughter. She manages to recreate a gamut of emotions in her actions and expressions as well as her words as she experiences disillusionment, love and then hope. We believe in her, innocent and naïve as she is, and we love her for it.
David Forest wanders in and out of the action on stage to play his endless verses of “Don’t send my Wanda to Wandsworth” to the amusement and delight of the audience and the characters on stage. His performance is a true gem.
“Funny Turns” is a glimpse into an old-fashioned way of thinking and believing. It reminds us that in that wonderful era so long ago, when we had no TV, Netflix, Instagram, facebook, cell phones, or videos, these entertainers devoted their lives to our amusement each at a cost to himself. The life was artificial, insecure and rootless, yet it had an excitement and a charm that kept the actors acting and the comedians telling jokes. There was an innocence and yet a wisdom in all those performances back then that David Hampshire has captured in his script. See his lovely piece when it returns, as return it must. Treat yourself to a backward glance at a very special time in British theatrical history