Directed by Simon Downing
In these somewhat uncertain times comes a wonderful evening of warmth, wit and gentle humour. Choice Grenfell 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We are delighted that the family of William Blezard have allowed us access to previously unpublished rehearsal recordings and personal letters from Joyce Grenfell allowing a unique insight into the queen of comediennes.
Choice Grenfell is a full length show celebrating the life of Joyce Grenfell during the 40th anniversary year of her death. The show will provide a completely unique view into the life of Joyce Grenfell through the eyes of her much respected friend, and Musical Director, William Blezard. Starting with a depiction of a rehearsal in Act 1 and then segues into the full performance in Act 2. Kick in the Head have been given access to personal letters and hours of interview recordings from William Blezard in order to make this show as authentic as possible.
Act 1 – The Rehearsal
Joyce and William arrive as if they are turning up at an empty theatre for a rehearsal before the performance. As Joyce rehearses songs and monologues, the dialogue between the characters provides the opportunity for us to learn about Joyce Grenfell’s life, the type of lady she was and her relationship with William Blezard, her longstanding and trusted pianist and Musical Director. The dialogue for this act has been written by acclaimed playwright Simon Downing using extensive material kindly provided by the family of William Blezard.
Act – 2 The Performance
The second half of the show is the performance! The stage is now set, make up is on and the audience are now given the full Joyce Grenfell performance.
Our aim with the show is celebrate the life and work of a great lady. In order to do this we have been given access to personal letters and hours of interview recordings of the man who knew her as well as anyone. At Kick In The Head we didn’t want to produce just another show trotting out songs and monologues in a ‘tribute band format’. We wanted to produce a piece of theatre that gives people an understanding of the lady herself as well as celebrating her marvellous work.
Future dates (click on the link below each date to book tickets)
23 Jan 2020 Corn Hall, Diss, Norfolk
30 Jan 2020 The Spring, Havant, Hants ***SOLD OUT***
31 Jan 2020 Cranleigh Arts Centre, Cranleigh, Surrey ***SOLD OUT***
1 Feb 2020 Cotswold Playhouse, Stroud, Glocs ***SOLD OUT***
5 Feb 2020 The Stables Theatre, Wavendon, Milton Keynes ***SELLING FAST***
7 Feb 2020 Ropery Hall, Barton-upon-Humber, N Lincs
8 Feb 2020 The Middlesbrough Theatre, N Yorks
9 Feb 2020 Helmsley Arts Centre, Helmsley, W Yorks (matinee)
26 Feb 2020 Lincoln Drill Hall, N Lincs
27 Feb 2020 Grantham Guildhall, Grantham, Lincs ***SELLING FAST***
28 Feb 2020 Riverhead Theatre, Louth, Lincs ***ONLY 14 TICKETS REMAINING***
29 Feb 2020 Norden Farm Centre for the Arts, Maidenhead
4 Mar 2020 Hangar Farm Arts Centre, Totton, Hants
6 Mar 2020 Brunton Theatre, Edinburgh
23 Apr 2020 Eden Court, Inverness
30 Apr 2020 Cliff House, Salcombe, Devon
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, S Wales
7 May 2020 Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Ceredigion, Wales
15 May 2020 Seagull Theatre, Lowestoft, Suffolk
16 May 2020 Worlingworth Community Centre, Suffolk
21 May 2020 Stable Theatre, Great Comp, Kent
23 May 2020 Barn Theatre, Smallhythe Place, Kent
5 June 2020 Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury, Bucks
13 June 2020 Miserden Estate, Stroud, Glos
19 June 2020 Skipton Little Theatre, Skipton, Yorks
27 June 2020 Weald & Downland Living Museum, Sussex
18 July 2020 Plas Cadnant Hidden Gardens, Anglesey
10 Sept 2020 Gladstone Theatre, Merseyside
8 Oct 2020 The Astor, Deal, Kent
12 Nov 2020 The Lights, Andover, Hants
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, 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
20 July 2019 The Place Theatre, Bedford ***SOLD OUT***
21 July 2019 The Place Theatre, Bedford ***SOLD OUT***
27 July 2019 The Berry Theatre, Southampton
6 Sept 2019 Dore Abbey, Herefordshire ***SOLD OUT***
7 Sept 2019 Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens, Birmingham
20 Sept 2019 Strafford Gatehouse Theatre, Staffs
21 Sept 2019 Ralph Court Gardens, Bromyard, Herefordshire
28 Sept 2019 South Hill Park Arts Centre, Berks
5 Oct 2019 Hinchingbrooke Performing Arts Centre, Cambs
9 Oct 2019 Manor Pavilion Theatre, Sidmouth, Devon ***SOLD OUT***
10 Oct 2019 Cygnet Theatre, Exeter, Devon
11 Oct 2019 Vera Fletcher Hall, Thames Ditton, Surrey ***SOLD OUT***
12 Oct 2019 Sarah Thorne Theatre, Broadstairs, Kent
9 Nov 2019 The Hazlitt Theatre, Maidstone, Kent
15 Nov 2019 Quay Theatre, Sudbury, Suffolk ***SOLD OUT***
17 Nov 2019 Milton Rooms, Malton, N Yorks
11 Jan 2020 Cryer Arts Centre, Carshalton, Surrey ***SOLD OUT***
12 Jan 2020 Cryer Arts Centre, Carshalton, Surrey
18 Jan 2020 Players Theatre, Thame, Oxon
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!