Flamin' Dames sing Coward and
A Musical Salute to London Theatreland’s ‘Queens of Song’
7-14 August, 19.20 (50 mins). Suitability: 14+. theSpace @ Symposium Hall (venue 43), Hill Square, EH8 9DR. £10(£8); previews 7-9 August £9(£7); 2-for-1 10-11 August. Box Office: 0131 510 2385,
It is 1917 - a time when ‘Gay’ is a girl's name and the word ‘Musical’ insinuates batting for the other team. Noel Coward steps out on his way to a matinee in Manchester and bumps into Ivor Novello. Unimpressed by Ivor’s day-old stubble, Noel is underwhelmed by this initial meeting. But for the next 30-odd years, the fates of these two ‘Queens of Song’ collide and intermingle through shared shows, zany parties, stardom, close female friends, spectacular flops - and of course, lunches at The Ivy. Flamin' Dames rocket through the pair’s lives, picking up shiny gems and feasting on juicy titbits, but overall portraying the humour, farce, self-deprecation and pathos of these two greats of early Twentieth Century British theatre in their Edinburgh Fringe premiere.
Accompanied on piano by their musical director and arranger Stephen Powell and directed by Annee Blott, Flamin’ Dames – Helen Whittington and Hilary Fisher – bring their versatile, classically trained voices to both iconic songs and magical hidden treasures. Numbers range from the Music Hall slapstick of Has Anyone Seen Our Ship? and the stoned hilarity I’ve Been To A Marvellous Party to the heartfelt Keep The Home Fires Burning and the political satire, Bad Times, still spot on for 21st century Britain!
What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
Anne Blott: The production was inspired by the music of Coward and Novello. Flamin Dames has two classically trained female singers at the centre of the company. It was originally thought that the approach would be through Coward and Novellos leading ladies. This idea was explored and discarded in favour of celebrating the friendship of the pair.This allowed a more organic approach in devising the show.
Why bring your work to Edinburgh?
Edinburgh is a frantic,challenging,overwhelming mix of the brilliant and the bizarre. It is also an international showcase for artists, accessible to small companies and enormous fun.
What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
The show has been thoroughly researched. We are celebrating long dead songwriters in a contemporary way, in that we ignore gender. We are expecting the audience will be entertained, surprised and introduced to material that is fresh and enjoyable .
The Dramaturgy Questions
How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
I am now speaking in my role as director:
It has been part of my training as an actress. I emerged in the 1980s( from the university of Manchester) when the notion of originating your own work was a part of the fabric of theatre.What particular traditions and influences would you acknowledge on your work - have any particular artists, or genres inspired you and do you see yourself within their tradition?I have been influenced by physical theatre- Piña Bausch and Lecoq but probably mostly by a director I worked with at the Young Vic called John Tordoff and by stand up comedy. I am a small part of that tradition which I am proud to honour.
Do you have a particular process of making that you could describe - where it begins, how you develop it, and whether there is any collaboration in the process?The process is fundamentally collaborative. I generally come in to 'flesh out" an idea, to make it live theatrically. My role is to represent the audience, to give structure, shape and pace.
What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work?
The work has no meaning without an audience. It is a sacred contract even if the audience is unaware of it. I see my role as their representative. Ideally this means I will not underestimate their intelligence, bore them, or withhold from them. Theatre is a gift. It should be generous thoughtful and beautifully presented even if challenging.
Are there any questions that you feel I have missed out that would help me to understand how dramaturgy works for you?
Within a small company, the role of dramaturge is occasional, fluid,and changing.
We are part of a tradition but we don't use the role traditionally because it wouldn't work for us
We don't have a hierarchy and we have lives outside of the theatre.
This intimate, sophisticated musical revue is interspersed with true stories taken from diaries and biographies.
Flamin’ Dames are experienced performers who have worked with the Arts Council’s Rural Touring Scheme since 2006, extensively touring England and the Scottish Highlands and Islands, and were the guest artists at the Aberdeen Community Arts Festival in 2007. They have also appeared at the Brighton Fringe and London venues, such as Pizza On The Park, The Pheasantry and Brasserie Toulouse Lautrec. Delivering performances with energy, enthusiasm and a retro elegance, like Coward and Novello, Flamin’ Dames always put entertainment firmly centre stage.