If this show had simply featured the songs of the Three Belles – an Andrews Sisters-inspired act with delightful voices and glorious harmonies – and some references to the 1940s kink magazine London Life that inspires this piece, I would have been more than happy. As it is, this production, which proclaims to be a ‘play with music’ suffers due to awkward staging and a script that needs refining. This is a pity because the performers are talented, the concept is intriguing and the source material lends itself to much greater possibilities.
If the script were to be revisited ot restructured this production would have great potential.
London Life, we learn, featured ‘fads’ of a sort not commonly discussed in polite company. From rubber outfits, tight lacing and cross-dressing to shoe fetishes and bondage, aficionados wrote in to the saucy magazine to share their own experiences. It’s safe to assume the magazine was responsible for many, erm, stiff upper lips during the wartime effort. The Three Belles are in their element singing cheeky ditties and have a wonderful stage presence when they do. In contrast, many of the scenes in the play, which feel more like skits, lack a sense of character continuity and the narrative structure is clunky. In some places, it’s hard to tell whether the actors are taking an over-the-top panto approach or are simply poor actors (other moments suggest the former, but this is still problematic).
The character of the grasping, tongue-lolling Editor-in-chief is two-dimensional, giving the actor little to work with. It’s unclear whether London Life is gently mocking or prudishly deriding the proclivities the editor promotes in his magazine and there’s little sense of him having any motivation beyond lechery. Messages of sexual liberation do appear towards the end of the piece, although there’s a missed opportunity to place this contextually against the impact of the war. While there is some very fun innuendo at the beginning of the piece, many of the jokes become obvious and the ol’ panto wink to the audience soon feels overdone.
If the script were to be revisited, restructured (or perhaps retired in favour of the simpler approach of reading excerpts from the magazine instead of hanging a thin narrative on top) this production would have great potential with its many engaging elements: humour, superb singing, glamorous girls and fascinating, true subject matter.