Exceptional performances in My Judy Garland Life at Nottingham Playhouse
Hero worship can take many forms, from learning every piece of trivia you can about your icon to something more obsessive and sinister. But more than that, heroes can also be a great source of comfort in times of difficulty and a supportive friend who inspires us to fulfill our potential.
It’s a theme which is explored in My Judy Garland Life, which opened at Nottingham Playhouse last week. The play is based on the memoir of the author and journalist Susie Boyt, whose love of Judy Garland has helped her cope with the anxiety she felt as a sensitive teenager and the tragic death of a friend while she was at university.
Told through imagined conversations Susie has with Judy, we see a friendship flourish between the two women and it is strange to think that that it is completely one-sided. But Susie’s obsession is so intense that it permeates every aspect of her life. Susie imagines herself performing alongside Judy and the glamorous world of show business becomes an escape from her troubles. When she is still bereaved by the loss of her friend, Susie says that everyone now treats her differently – apart from Judy who remains the same upbeat performer she knows so well.
What makes the production so beguiling is that while it examines Judy Garland’s life, including her alcoholism and drug addiction, it also looks at people’s perceptions of her. Many, of course, will always associate her with her role as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz – but this seemed a world away from her life and untimely death.
Despite the tragic life Judy led, the play is ultimately very uplifting and full of show-stopping songs from Judy’s career, performed by a live three-piece band. In one poignant moment, Susie forgets the words when she is singing on stage. But Judy, who has been sitting watching her, emerges from the shadows and the two of them perform the song together.
The play starred just two actresses, who were accompanied by the three band members who also took on different roles. Faye Elvin, who played Susie, was perfect as the devoted fan while Sally Ann Trippet captured Judy’s glamour and vulnerability. Not only that but she also had an immensely rich voice which filled the theatre and made this a truly exceptional performance.
Showing alongside My Judy Garland Life is Amateur Girl, a one-woman show which stars Lucy Speed. Here, Experience Nottinghamshire’s Carly Jones gives her verdict.
Amateur Girl is a great monologue piece performed by ex-EastEnders star, Lucy Speed and is based on the real life stories of women in the adult entertainment world. Lucy portrays the character of Julie, a down-to-earth nurse who works long hours at a Nottingham hospital on the minimum wage. But after being given a camcorder by her boyfriend, she finds herself in the world of ‘amateur girls’.
Without the support of other actors, monologues can be difficult but Lucy’s performance was truly outstanding and she did a great job of captivating the audience for a full 70 minutes.