The story of the theatrical Dame has had many incarnations and they all revolve around a fairly standard trope. The Transfiguration of Mrs Lamen, written, directed and produced by Alex J. Yates, is no exception, despite asserting itself as a ‘metatheatrical’ work that ‘draws from the very lifeblood of theatre’.
Humdrum take on the pantomime Dame
So here we go again! The action takes place backstage on the night of an annual London pantomime. Darren Machin takes on the role and we find him in the dressing room. A make-up table is placed in front of an imposing 6ft x 4ft mirror, with a bright surround of LED bulbs that illuminate not just the ageing Dame’s face but also much of the stage. Looking tired and worn with messy makeup she continues her preparations, which consist mostly of swigging sherry from a bottle; a misguided confidence boost that might give her the courage to go on stage, though we never reach that point. What follows is a fairly standard lament, in which he bemoans his lot in life and complains about almost everything that has befallen him, leaving him feeling undervalued and underappreciated.
Proceedings are brightened up with the entrance of Charlie Thurston, who gives a delightfully natural performance as the stagehand. The conversation turns to the Dame’s inability to remember her lines, the need to finish getting into costume and the risk the theatre is taking by allowing him anywhere near the stage. The huge underskirt and frock are put on covering a rather uncomfortable view of him in tights and all is set for the curtain. But the conversations go on and attention swings to the stagehand’s life story as much as the Dame’s. Woven into this is the appearance of a beggar who makes couple of appearances, intruding into the conversation and causing some concern before ending up in dressing room six, but that’s another rather unclear story.
Perhaps that’s the bit the company refers to as ‘Pinteresque, with moments of surreality, and a wealth of dark humour’, because it won’t be found elsewhere in this rather predictable and humdrum take on the pantomime Dame which might be one more interpretation to add to the collection for aficionados of the genre.