By Isabella Fraser
Taking a look at the male impersonators of music hall and variety days from WWI onwards, and the evolving attitudes towards same sex relationships, this show is a charming and delightfully performed piece. The double act of Ali Child and Rosie Wakley make the most of the intimate venue, which is the perfect size to cozy up as the stories of those early pioneers unfolds. A simple set allows the pair to let the songs and history play their own part in the tale.
Part sing-a-long (the audience is given song sheets to join in the classics such as All the Nice Girls Love a Sailor) and part slice of history, the show is at its best when Child and Wakley cheekily flirt with all the members of the audience during the songs. Their light-hearted manner works in encouraging audience members to join in and means stories can be told directly, feeling almost confessional, instead of instructional.
What is less successful is the actual history side of the play and the storyline. This could be expanded and clarified to make more of the wealth of information out there – interest is piqued by the mention of famous names of the day: it could add a storytelling element to include more real life tales. While Child performs as Ella Shields – of Burlington Bertie fame – this seemed less of an unfolding of her life, rather than a way of linking the information.
Nonetheless, the two performers’ have clearly put their hearts and souls into this production, with the result that you leave feeling heart-warmed and happy, as well as wanting to know more about the eras the entertainers lived through. You will also leave humming some of the songs! If you love music of the period, or are simply fascinated by stories of the past you will find this a sweet, engaging and light-hearted way to spend some Fringe time.