Saturday, 26 July 2014

The Lives & Loves of Vera Dymond @ 24:7 Festival, 24.07.14

They say it’s lonely at the top, but not half as lonely as it is at the bottom, lost and forgotten, which is where club singer Vera Dymond finds herself in The Lives and Loves of Vera Dymond from writer Jayne Marshall.

“You can’t polish a turd,” says Vera (Melissa Sinden) in her opening address, “But you can roll it in glitter.” This would certainly be an apt description of her backing singers’ early rehearsal efforts, an act in sequined screaming rather than stylish singing. Dubbed ‘The Dymontees’ Renee (Kimberley Hart-Simpson) and Caitlin (Laura Mold) are almost as broken as Vera herself, only they’re young enough not to notice. We follow their attempts to hone the howling into something enjoyable, as Dymond tries to rekindle the flame of her former glory while The Dymontees seek to surpass her and seal their own stardom. All of this occurs under the watchful eye and wandering hands of manager Vic (Adrian Palmer), an old-time promoter who is out to exploit them for all they’re worth. Intercut with the struggling and scrapping are flashbacks of Vera’s own origins, which have a striking similarity to the present day events.

The play is pitted with pithy putdowns, snappy asides and plain old silliness that gets a lot of laughs. However, this perhaps prevents the characters from developing further, and as the three singers veer between cattiness, contempt and consoling one another it becomes quite hard to work out exactly how they feel. This is not to take away from the work of the actors, who all gave engaging performances; the highlight coming when Renee – Encouraged by Vera in a Disney-esque fashion to “sing a song that means something to you” – does an endearing number that reveals a soft centre beneath her made-up exterior.

Ultimately it was the musical numbers that worked best, especially the one discussed above, and keeping the singers on stage as real-life silhouettes during scenes they were not involved in was a cute touch. The live band accompanying the piece gave the show a sonic depth that made it feel like a real music performance and not just a play about a band. Not everything came off though, as the flashbacks scenes – where an invisible young Vera (voiced upstage by Sinden) is harangued by her manager Billy (Pat Lally) – made for awkward viewing.

The Lives and Loves of Vera Dymond captures the seedy side of showbiz well, and is a fun way to spend an hour.

Words: Andrew Anderson

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