Southwark Playhouse, London – until 30 July 2016
This could be the briefest review I’ve ever written – Quite simply if you are interested in or a fan of Judy Garland or just want to see a masterclass in performance, you need to get yourself to see Through The Mill at Southwark Playhouse before it ends on 30th July! There you go, job done, as simple as that ……! However, I hear you asking, why? Okay, well I’ll tell you.
As you walk the yellow brick road into the large theatre at Southwark Playhouse (yes they really have painted one onto the floor), you get a sense that this is going to be something special. The cast are already in character on the stage, which is backdropped by a staircase and platform all used extremely effectively.
This play chronicles Judy Garlands life in three stages but all ostensibly from the view of her TV show recordings for CBS. The three Judy’s are Helen Sheals who plays CBS Judy, Belinda Wollaston as Palace Judy and finally young Judy is played by Lucy Penrose. All are the original cast from the earlier run this year at the London Theatre Workshop.
What’s interesting about this piece is the amount of understanding of how this icon not only came to be but also of her immense insecurities. She endured manipulation from an early age by a controlling, overpowering, fame seeking mother and then in her career by the industry. She gained a reputation for being difficult to work with and unreliable. I have to say I think people misread her completely, all she wanted is to be loved, a part of her never actually grew up and so she had a childlike quality which people mistook. We have to remember that she was performing all her life, she starred in her first motion picture at the tender age of seven and it was just ten years later that she was cast as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.
Photo Credit Darren Bell
I have watched documentaries before however nothing has brought her story more to life for me than this musical play and it’s extraordinarily talented cast. Each time either Sheals, Wollaston or Penrose performed, I thought that one has nailed Garland to perfection and I could not distinguish between any of them, all equally incredible in their portrayal. All I can say is that months of research must’ve taken place by all three of them, right down to their mannerisms, sound and overall perception was spot on and utterly superb.
Other notable performances came from Carmella Brown as dresser Judith Cramer, Sid Luft played by Harry Anton and Mother Ethel Gumm Amanda Bailey. All supporting characters were important for the piece and none more so than these three who gave excellent performances.
This play written and directed by Ray Rackham has the ability to make you laugh and cry but most importantly celebrate the icon that was Judy Garland. With songs such as Life is a Bowl of Cherries, You Made Me Love You, Get Happy, The Trolley Song and Over The Rainbow. All were exquisitely and powerfully delivered by this shows incredible leading ladies.
Returning to my first paragraph this is simply a must see before it closes on the 30th July. After all where else do you get to walk the yellow brick road into a theatre space. Click your ruby slippers or this link to book now!