Monday, 30 May 2016
Mrs Henderson Presents is the true story of the Windmill Theatre (the only house to stay open all through World War II) and it's remarkable owner.
Obviously, much has been made of the nudity in this show. So let's get the elephant out of the room and say it is not gratuitous. One scene has great comedy (reminding me of old fashioned) farce as the girls taunt the male staff with "You show me yours and I'll show you mine" jibes. The main scenes portray what actually happened on stage. The final one is well done and I must applaud Emma Williams for her bravery and strength to perform a moving, morale-lifting song beautifully, front and centre stage.
The show itself? It does seem like the acts were written by different playrights; the first act is fun, frolics and farce. The second? Given the onset of war (and the bravery of all involved at the theatre in carrying on), it had to take a more serious tone.
As someone who has visited Arnhem, my heart went out to theatre manager Van Damn when he appears wearing the Star of David armband forced upon Jewish people by the Nazis.
OK, the songs are perhaps not memorable, but the comic moments are well done, the tragic moments had you feeling the cast's loss.
I must praise Tracie Bennett, who captured the spirit of the remarkable Mrs Henderson and gave a performance that portrayed light and dark, Ian Bartholomew for how slick theatre manager Van Damm became human, affected and caring for his company. And much praise for Emma Williams, who handled the demands of the role of Maureen (who undergoes a roller-coaster ride from dippy tea girl to lead pose to morale-lifting singer to tireless support worker) and has a lovely voice bordering on the operatic.
As you can see, I found a lot to like. I do agree with others in saying this is perhaps a see once show, but it is worth that single view.