Blonde Bombshells of 1943
Tuesday saw Canal Street's Correspondent whisked back to Northern England in 1943, for an evening of nostalgia and foot tapping war time swing music.
Canal Street has found the Oldham Coliseum. On the edge of Oldham Town Centre its un-presupposing exterior nestled between Oldham's industrial past pubs and takeaway chicken outlets sits a hidden gem of theatrical loveliness which deserves seeking out. It is clear from the moment you walk through the door the love and affection felt for this place by those who have the pleasure to work there.
"The Blonde Bombshells of 1943" began life 1989 as a TV play written by the late Alan Plater (best known for his work as scriptwriter on Z-Cars). It evolved into the Last of the Blonde Bombshells, a 2000 film for TV starring Judi Dench and Ian Holm, its latest guise is a stage musical. Now produced by the Coliseum in association in association with New Vic Theatre, Newcastle under Lyme.
Plater's story covers a day in the life of an all-female swing band battling against the odds on the home as war time band-leader Betty struggles to lick her all-girl swing group, the Blonde Bombshells into shape before their big come back on the BBC wireless. Trouble is the greatest glamour girl group in the North has lost half its members to war and illicit liaisons with American GIs.
The Bombshells hastily recruit new talent……. an innocent school-girl, a nun, an upper-class tart and a man not afraid of donning a frock if it keeps him out of national service. Betty, and the Bombshells prepare to give the performance of their lives.
The plot doesn’t really go anywhere, touching on issues relating to war, loss and the role of women. However, what the story lacks by way of plot is more than made up for by a multi-talented cast, northern humour, and the toe-tapping nostalgic songs 1940s.
The music played live by the hardworking cast of multi-talented actor-musicians makes the night. It's difficult to pick out an individual actor from the eight-strong cast for praise, as they are all talented actors and very gifted musicians. Casting could not have been easy for director Kevin Shaw, as all eight performers have to act, sing and play a specific instrument including sax, clarinet, double bass, trumpet and piano.
The production design was just "right" war-weary gritty backstage settings for the first act……… wartime glamour loads of PINK and a touch of wartime make do and mend at the end, that survivor spirit that got us through the blitz.
Recommended for a fun night out of nostalgia, "The Blonde Bombshells of 1943" plays to 4 May 2013 at the Oldham Coliseum Theatre, Fairbottom Street, Oldham, OL1 3SW, Details 0161 624 2829 or at email@example.com