I was invited recently to the press night of Noel and Gertie, which bills itself as follows -“This witty and moving show, affectionately crafted from diaries and letters between Coward and his stage partner, Gertrude Lawrence, tells the story of the professional and personal relationship between two of this century’s greatest stage personalities. Although they only appeared in two productions together, Private Lives and Tonight at 8.30, Noël Coward and Gertrude Lawrence epitomised an era of high style and elegance. The songs, sketches and snippets of scenes pieced together in Noël & Gertie have the entrancing effect of accurately portraying this remarkable duo and the era they helped to define.”
The two roles were played by Helena Blackman and Ben Stock, both of whom did a fantastic job of portraying the two very well known characters. Stock’s Noel Coward was pensive, creative and everything I had expected him to be. Blackman’s Gertrude Lawrence had all the class an elegance of a Broadway star. Both had faultless vocals – Blackman especially I felt had more beautiful vocals than those of the star she was portraying.
The script I felt gave a condensed down version of what were two very interesting lives that drifted together and apart over time. I felt a lot of the scandal (particularly around Gertie) was not discussed and would have definitely been an amusing addition to the show, but as the show is named “Noel and Gertie” I am not completely suprised that the scandalous stories were omitted in order to concentrate on the relationshop between the named protagonists.
Definitely my favourite number of the show was the Act one close (and act two opening) “Has Anybody Seen Our Ship?”. Give me tap dancing and you’re on for a winner with me!
I very much enjoyed this show and I think many of my readers too – especially if you want to learn more about two people who helped shape theatre.
Noel and Gertie is playing at the Cockpit Theatre until 22nd October. For more information on the show visit http://www.thecockpit.org.uk/show/noel_gertie
If you want to learn more about the show, you can watch my interview with Helena and Ben below!
Photo Annabel Vere