The Silver Lady

Anne Blair: from Birmingham Express & Star - June 1984


Some 25 years later I was curious to see what a new play by Liane Aukin, "Silver Lady", which started a run this week at the Birmingham Rep, was going to make of Ivy Benson and her girls.

I didn't know what to expect, and found myself bowled over by an excellent production. This drama-documentary evokes the magical nostalgia of the period before, during and after the war, when "glamour" was a necessity to overcome the gloom of the times. Nevertheless, it is a gutsy piece of workshowing the life of Ivy Benson, warts and all.

It shows the problems of women, but does not pay homage to the modern lunacy of "Womens Lib"; for example the inevitable pregnancy is dealt with unsentimentally, and life goes on.

What the play captures is the indomitable spirit of Ivy and her philosophy of life which is, in short, "Don't look back". At first she feel personally let down when a girl leaves, but as the play progresses you see her attitudes harden and you get the impression that the girls are so much fodder to feed Ivy's ego.

And yet there is always the redeeming sadness of a woman who couldn't accept coming second and who sacrificed her life for the sake of an idea.

Tributes must go to Polly Hemmingway who plays Ivy, with vitality and warmth; to director Peter Farago who has created an enthralling production in which he has managed to balance two major characters - Ivy and the Band. The Band, being a character, plays its music, in turn, becomes an important feature.The professional actresses who play the musicians, deserve all praise for the skill they show in actually playing the instruments - this isn't a record, folks!

What I didn't bargain for was the finale to the play, when the revolving stage turned and revealed a full 13 piece all-girl band playing "There'll Never Be Another You". Magnificent! What better finish could you ask for?

Click here for the Programme Cover of "The Silver Lady"

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