A question that is a commonly asked when it comes to couples is 'Who wears the trousers in this relationship?' A strange concept to think of, but it is one that indicates someone who is a natural leader and in some cases, powerful. The use of who wears the trousers is the uniquely fun basis of Dietrich and Hartshorne, which explores the possibility of having two strong women in a small performance space - one very much alive, the other whose spirit is also very much alive despite no longer being here. Patricia Hartshorne created and devised this show to not only celebrate the life and career of Marlene Dietrich (a diva in her own right), but also to explore the underlying psychologial undercurrent of the idea of physically and mentally wearing trousers, giving a sense of power on and off stage.
Hartshorne does a touching tribute to make sure this icon lives on forever.
Hartshorne to begin with taps into the idea of playing with gender today after growing up in a world where women only wore dresses. People such as Dietrich and Bowie feature as her idols, as well as loving cowboy films. These and other events in her life influence her dress sense today and seem to bring a sense of empowerment to her performance that is carefree and subtly glamorous. Despite being thrown a little by a couple of sound cue issues which she breezily rectifies with no technician by her side, Hartshorne is a natural storyteller who embraces the stage as if it is her home territory; especially when she shares with us that sharing the stage with the spirit of Marlene Dietrich can be a demanding one when she takes over her mind and body.
When she channels Dietrich herself, Hartshorne uses a very familiar spiritual practice of mediumship as a Brechtian way of inviting the audience to suspend their disbelief and enjoy a different energy in her performance. What evolves is not only a show that only Dietrich would do if she were alive today, but an engaging, informative cabaret style enabling us to learn more about her. If there are people who are familiar with this feisty, glamorous star, they will more than likely enjoy the familiarity in a more intimate and personal way; as if they are in Dietrich's presence. For those who are new, it becomes an eye-opening experience. We learn for instance that Hitler himself made Goebbels phone her to give her an offer which she couldn't refuse. When she did refuse it and became an American citizen, she was branded a traitor and had a price put on her head. This and many other controversial stories in her era that she shares are candid and honest and are worth listening to and enjoying, whilst being entertained. You may even be treated to the original German version of Falling In Love Again, which she preferred as it was more raunchy.
This month, it is 50 years since Dietrich did one of her last performances in Brighton before she passed away. Hartshorne does a touching tribute to make sure this icon lives on forever.