Lucille Ball. She was once heralded as being ‘the original reality TV star’ in her hit show I Love Lucy during the 1950’s. Now, her name hits the West End in Lee Tannen’s self-adaptation of his own autobiographical work.
Described as being perhaps ‘one of the most famous people on the planet’ during the crescendo of her rise to fame, Lucille Ball (Lucy) retired to the comfort of her Beverley Hills home and out of the spotlight. The story is told from Lee Tannen’s perspective: a die-hard fan of Lucy in his early years, later her confidant and trusted advisor. It’s a fragile story of her latter-years. Retired from the spotlight and the public-eye; little was known about Lucille’s final decade.
Here, the set is fairly simplistic. A platform atop the stage containing a table and two chairs with a backgammon set adorning the table. Around the stage sit actual photographs of Lucille – including some of Lee himself. Finally, at the very back of the stage sits the word Lucy in giant lettering.
This piece aims at an older generation; a lot of the young clearly not understanding the references in the show nor in fact who Lucille Ball actually is. Despite this, the two strong cast of Lucy [Sandra Dickinson] and Lee [Matthew Scott] give the performance their all.
Sandra Dickinson revives the role after playing her in the Jermyn Street Theatre production – here clear to see why as all eyes are on her from the minute she’s on stage. With everything from recreating the famous expressions to telling a story with her face alone. Often matching so closely to the photographs around, you could be forgiven thinking they were actually the same person!
Matthew Scott makes his West End debut as Lee Tannen; Lucy’s confidant and also the playwright himself. A beautifully emotive performance, with both complimenting each other to allow the audience to truly believe that their bond is real.
Despite the huge sign constantly in the eyeliner, this ends up being the Lee Tannen show from a page perspective. Written from his eye, the character of Lucy is often relegated to the sidelines in the narrative. While this gives Matthew Scott a chance to shine, it often finds the audience still gazing in Sandra’s direction, as opposed to his.
Overall, strong performances from the two-strong cast give this piece the authentic feel that we crave.
Gay Times gives I Loved Lucy – 3/5
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