We may recall radio greats from the past such as Roy (Mo) Rene and Jack Davey, but very few will know or remember Ada (Dorothy Foster) and Elsie (Rita Pauncefort).
Maureen Sherlock is the writer/researcher for this project and she plays Elsie, with Carole Yelland as Dorothy Foster, the writer of the original radio scripts.
Director Rob George has wisely selected the Capri cinema at Goodwood for the venue – its plush velvet curtains, art deco design and raised stage are well-suited for re-creating a live recording of a radio show in the 1940s, although the lighting was either a little widespread, dark or late.
Sherlock and Yelland successfully portray “those two old-fashioned girls” dressed in conservative blouses, long skirts, hats and gloves of the day. Sherlock’s script has added a few pieces of innuendo which bring the humour of the era a little more in line with our own and, as a result, there are numerous laughs to be had. Malcolm Hansford plays the role of senator and newspaper reporter Jack Davey competently, if a little tentatively, but he is a very confident and entertaining Vaudevillian spoon player.
Ada and Elsie were extremely popular in their day and it is certainly of interest that these two were banned from radio because of their reference to royalty; and although they used innuendo that may have tested boundaries in their time, I can’t see their comedy being regarded as offensive or corrupting and in need of being censored. Ada and Elsie is worth seeing as an insight into reasons why audiences in the past would have flocked to live recordings of radio shows and how the performers would have visually entertained their live audience as well as their radio audience.
The script hints at the obvious sexism and chauvinism of the day, and the pressures on female performers trying to break into the scene, but the moments are never intense or deeply explored.
Ada and Elsie is an entertaining night out and a play of potential, but it is not easy for only three actors to fill the large auditorium. The play is set in an interesting moment in our history during the war years and I hope that Prospect Productions can explore it further.
Prospect Productions is presenting Ada and Elsie: Wacko-the-Diddle-oh! at the Capri Cinema, Goodwood, until February 22.
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