Joyce Grenfell was a pioneer in British theatre, comedy and song. Most well known for her comic monologues and songwriting, she changed the way we see performance today and inspired many others to create characters based on her (Jean Brodie being an example). In this show inspired by one of her many performances, Cheryl Knight and Paul Knight joined forces, paying tribute to this inspirational icon.
Cheryl Knight and Paul Knight joined forces, paying tribute to this inspirational icon.
The first thing to note was the way that Knight made the whole experience feel intimate, despite there being a full audience. From the beginning, she made us feel like we were part of a selectively invited audience who were invited into her world. Grenfell was known for this style of performance and to get that intimacy immediately was well executed. Everything was extremely well researched and felt like we were seeing Grenfell herself, going back in time. From the simple set of a hatstand, rug, two chairs, a piano and simple costume additions, the spirit of Grenfell's style of performance was genuinely there. Knight's precise and detailed way she switched character with ease as Joyce Grenfell herself was mesmerising to watch. One moment we were seeing a school mistress with a sense of entitlement, the next a housewife who shared honest opinions about people and life.
Complimented perfectly by the musical accompaniment of musical director and director of the piece Paul Knight, he embodied the spirit of her concerts well. Each musical note hit was joyful, light and atmospheric as Cheryl Knight sang with vigour. A particular highlight was the song Unsuitable, in which it depicted a plump older woman with a zest for life despite 'looking like an ass'. With elements of Noel Coward's comedic nods sending up society, it felt relevant to today, encouraging us to live in the moment and not worry about how we come across as we get wiser (or not!).
Ode To Joyce was an enchanting performance that brought us back to a time when people like Grenfell were embraced. A slight bit of risqué, but observational comedy, with the dynamic talents of Knight Brodie at the helm brought a touch of class to Brighton Fringe and needs to be experienced to understand why Grenfell was a success and is still inspirational today.