Noel and Gertie - Sheringham Little Theatre - Review by Pat Prekopp

Moonlight becomes you: Corrina Powlesland and Fenton Gray. Picture: Pat Prekopp

Moonlight becomes you: Corrina Powlesland and Fenton Gray. Picture: Pat Prekopp - Credit: Archant

Noel and Gertie

Sheringham Little Theatre

It's hard to understand how people like Gertrude Lawrence – English actress, singer, dancer and musical comedy performer – came to be so famous considering how many of her films and stage productions were considered flops.

According to Lawrence's biographer and Coward's godson, Sheridan Morley, who devised this show, 'most traces of Gertrude Lawrence disappeared'¬¬¬¬– she died before television and radio shows were recorded, and though she made half a dozen films, 'her appearances are mostly undistinguished.'

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Yet her legend endures and some consider her the first international superstar.

But who hasn't heard of English playwright, composer, director, actor and singer, Noël Coward?

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They began their careers as child actors. Lawrence, born in 1898 and Coward in 1899, met in 1908 and forged a lasting friendship until her death in 1952.

It is this companionship and the private side of their illustrious lives that is revealed in this stylish production transporting us back to a time of glitz, style and elegance that defined the era.

The dialogue sparkles with eloquence and the repartee with wit as you would expect.

But we also see under the greasepaint when, backstage, they reveal the highs and lows of their special, deeply moving, relationship.

Coward's hauteur is captured comfortably by Fenton Gray who wisely ignored 'That Voice'.

Corrina Powlesland, as Gertrude, by her gritty delivery and flamboyance reveals why Gertie became the toast of Broadway.

Both actors are accomplished singers entrancing us with memorable songs like 'Sail Away', 'Mrs Worthington', and 'Mad Dogs and Englishmen' as they slipped effortlessly into sketches from 'Private Lives', 'Tonight at 8:30' and 'Brief Encounter'.

The ever-present and masterly pianist Andrew Hopkins made up this musical trio, unexpectedly taking centre-stage at one point.

And the handsome costumes - evening attire swiftly made over with simple changes using dressing gowns, top hats, and coats – along with authentic set design and skilful lighting guaranteed classy enchantment.

You don't have to be of an age to luxuriate in this sort of nostalgia and it made a grand finale to what has been an all-embracing and exuberant summer season.

Patrick Prekopp

Tickets available for last few performances, this Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, 11, 12, 13 September, each night at 8pm, with matinee at 2.30pm on Tuesday., 01263 822347

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