Directed by Simon Downing
In these somewhat uncertain times comes a wonderful evening of warmth, wit and gentle humour. The show features some of the best of Joyce’s delightful songs and monologues from ‘Stately as a Galleon’ and ‘School Nativity Play’ to “A Terrible Worrier” and "First Flight “. Joyce is our guide for a delightful delve into some of her most delightful characters , ably accompanied by her trusted pianist. As Joyce would have said “ We request the pleasure of your company” in the company of one of Britain’s best loved comediennes.
We are delighted that the family of William Blezard have allowed us access to previously unpublished rehearsal recordings and personal letters from Joyce allowing a unique insight into the queen of comediennes.
Joyce Grenfell - Suzanna Walters
Suzanna trained at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts.
Theatre roles include Mrs Zewlinsky in “I’m Telling You They’re Aliens!” (Matrix Theatre/touring), Suhir in “Salaam Bethlehem” (Riding Lights Theatre Company, York/touring), Mrs Micawber in “The Micawbers” (King’s Head/English Theatre of Bruges), Titania in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, Nerissa in “The Merchant of Venice” & Emilia in “Othello” (all Tight Fit Theatre, Wycombe Swan), Emily in “The Needle’s Eye” (King’s Head), Witch in “Macbeth” (Pentameters), Lady Macbeth in “Macbeth” and Olivia in “Twelfth Night” (Bitesize Theatre), the one-woman play “A Woman Alone” (Merton Abbeyfest) and various roles with the Cat’s Grin Theatre Company (touring).
Film/TV roles include “Parallel Lines” (Dir. Jackie Clarke, 2014) “Consider Her Ways” (Dir. Laura Tunstall), “Grand Opening” (Dir. Darryl Fernandez) & NatWest commercial (Dir. Ged Forshaw).
Recently, Suzanna has performed in the premiere of two new plays, ‘Bare Reality’ and ‘A Drama out of a Crisis’, both for Matrix Theatre, as well as playing various characters from Sheridan and Shakespeare in Pop Up Scandal and Pop Up Shakespeare at Polesden Lacey.
In 2017, Suzanna wrote her first play, ‘Eat Me’, which was performed in two Surrey venues, and in 2018 was taken by Matrix Theatre Company to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It will play at the 2019 Guildford Fringe Festival.
William Blezard - Andrew D Brewis
Andrew, singer, pianist and raconteur, has appeared in cabaret all over the world playing regularly at The Savoy and London’s celebrity haunt The Ivy. Andrew hails from England and is a member of the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters, he has been a professional pianist, singer, songwriter and cabaret artist for more than 30 years. Now a recognised master of his art, Andrew's performances are quintessentially English, but with an international slant and a truly international following having toured the UK, America and South Africa.
20 Sept 2019 Stafford Gatehouse Theatre, Staffs
21 Sept 2019 Ralph Court Gardens, Bromyard, Herefordshire
28 Sept 2019 South Hill Park Arts Centre, Bracknell, Berks
5 Oct 2019 Hinchingbrooke Performing Arts Centre, Huntingdon, Cambs
9 Oct 2019 Manor Pavilion Theatre, Sidmouth, Devon
10 Oct 2019 Cygnet Theatre, Exeter, Devon
11 Oct 2019 Vera Fletcher Hall, Thames Ditton, Surrey
12 Oct 2019 Sarah Thorne Theatre, Broadstairs, Kent
9 Nov 2019 Hazlitt Theatre, Maidstone, Kent
15 Nov 2019 Quay Theatre, Sudbury, Suffolk
16 Nov 2019 The Majestic Theatre, Darlington, North Yorks
17 Nov 2019 The Milton Rooms, Malton, N Yorks
18 Jan 2020 The Players Theatre, Thame, Oxon
23 Jan 2020 The Corn Hall, Diss, Norfolk
30 Jan 2020 The Spring, Havant, Hants
31 Jan 2020 Cranleigh Arts Centre, Cranleigh, Surrey
1 Feb 2020 Cotswold Playhouse, Stroud, Glos
7 Feb 2020 Ropery Hall, Barton-upon-Humber, North Lincs
8 Feb 2020 Middlesbrough Theatre, North Yorks
9 Feb 2020 Helmsley Arts Centre, Helmsley, North Yorks
26 Feb 2020 Lincoln Drill Hall Arts Centre, Lincs
27 Feb 2020 Grantham Guildhall Arts Centre, Lincs
28 Feb 2020 Riverhead Theatre, Louth, Lincs
4 Mar 2020 Hangar Farm Arts Centre, Totton, Hants
1 May 2020 Palace Theatre, Paignton, Devon
2 May 2020 The Plough Arts Centre, Great Torrington, Devon
3 May 2020 The Acorn Theatre, Penzance, Cornwall
6 May 2020 Torch Theatre, Milford Haven, Wales
16 May 2020 Worlingworth Community Centre, Suffolk
21 May 2020 Stable Theatre, Great Comp, Kent
More dates to be announced soon!
10 May 2019 Brighton Open Air Theatre, East Sussex
11 May 2019 Southwold Arts Centre, Suffolk
18 May 2019 The Savoy Theatre, Monmouth, Wales
21 May 2019 The Core Theatre, Solihull, West Midlands
22 June 2019 The Phoenix Theatre and Arts Centre, Bordon, Hants ***SOLD OUT***
29 June 2019 Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford Surrey ***SOLD OUT***
30 June 2019 The Hawth, Crawley, West Sussex ***SOLD OUT***
7 July 2019 Sunbury & Shepperton Arts Festival, Surrey
20 July 2019 The Place Theatre, Bedford ***SOLD OUT***
21 July 2019 The Place Theatre, Bedford
27 July 2019 The Berry Theatre, Southampton
6 Sept 2019 Dore Abbey, Abbey Dore, Herefordshire
7 Sept 2019 Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens, Birmingham
Do you ever feel like shouting " Stop the world, I want to get off!"? It's a mad world we're living in, isn't it...and a pretty cruel one at times. Well, a very innovative theatre production company is offering you that chance...just for an evening...but what an evening! Kick in the Head's touring production, " Choice Grenfell " opened last Friday at Brighton Open Air Theatre. For those of you who never had the opportunity to see and hear the wonderful Joyce Grenfell...you've got some catching up to do...and now's your chance! Joyce was a very popular and charming comedian, monologist and singer in the 50s & 60s, who had launched her career in the 40's doing sterling duty entertaining the troops in far flung places during the second world war. The cheerful stoicism she always exhibits is so reminiscent of the slogan which seems to have become popular again in recent times, " Keep calm and carry on."
She has been described as " quintessentially English" and "unremittingly genteel". That sounds rather stuffy,doesn't it? Oh, no, it certainly wasn't...and isn't... in this marvellous production, starring Suzanna Walters as the whimsically wonderful Joyce and Andrew Brewis as her accompanist and great friend, William Blezard. Beautifully adapted for the stage by Simon Downing, the play draws on much of Joyce's original material and archive material, so generously shared by Blezard's daughter, Pookie, for this production.
The play is cleverly constructed, with the first half showing us Joyce and William meeting for a rehearsal at a new venue, before the evening's show. The vehicle of the rehearsal, allows us to get to know both the individual characters and also much about their working and personal relationships. After the interval, the second half launches us into Joyce's actual concert, when we are regaled with many of the old favourites, such as, " That is the end of the news", " The transatlantic flight", "The Picnic", "The Nursery School" ...yes, George is still " doing that", " Stately as a galleon" and some of the sketches and monologues which show much pathos amidst the mirth, such as "Jim & Bob and Harry...the Spinster sister" and " Good-bye at the station".
Many will remember Joyce's performances in the St Trinians films. That so very English schoolgirl humour is in evidence here too, with the appearance of " Lumpy Latimer" in the "Old girls school reunion" . Which of us has not experienced the potential trauma of meeting up again with those we were once at school with...oh so many years ago ...and realising that, perhaps. we had never dealt properly with our relationships with those who we weren't too keen on...not to mention those who disliked us and were very unkind, as only children, especially girls, can be, sometimes, giving us cruel nicknames...a lesson here in deflecting trouble with a typically English self- deprecating humour.." time isn't always a great healer", she says, with cheerful stoicism and self knowledge. Her observations of people's peculiarities are done with empathy and love and none of the cruelty of what so often passes for humour now.
The songs are delightful...some even hauntingly beautiful, such as Noel Coward's "If love were all", during which Joyce shows her kind and generous heart and a real understanding of the human condition. Early on, we learn how important it was to Joyce to " set about removing the plum " from her mouth. She took great delight in observing and portraying the broadest range of people in society. " It's not what you are, but who you are that matters" was clearly her great philosophy and the affection and humour she felt for all her " reincarnations" are there for all of us to feel.
Andrew Brewis's practical musical prowess, as William Blezard, sitting at the keyboard is masterly. Suzanna Walters gives us the perfect Joyce, of fondest memory, with uncannily accurate facial expressions, movement and posture. Like Joyce herself, the voice is not loud, but the diction is perfect.
The first song during " the rehearsal" was "I'm going to see you today" and the evening finished with it too. It's one of my favourite songs: firstly, it's a simply beautiful melody, but the words evoke, for me, an almost pure,tender and innocent love, which, it seems, the commercialisation of " love" today in the media, has all but obliterated...yet there it still is, so very " Joyce", underneath all the detritus. How good it is to be reminded of that!
Choice Grenfell is touring all over the UK into 2020. For further information and booking, visit www.kickinthehead.co.uk and treat yourself to an evening of magical mirth and music, a wonderful celebration of humanity!