A Marvellous Party! Novello & Noel

A Marvellous Party! –  Novello & Noel

By David Slattery-Christy – With Music by Noel Coward & Ivor Novello

 

“The characters are all young, vibrant and in their prime, untroubled by the tread-mill that was life. They exist only as shadows in the history of theatre and the land that was revue and musical comedy.” (script notes) DSC

For many years now I have harboured and idea to write a play with music that was based on one of Ivor Novello’s famous parties at his flat that sits on top of the now Novello Theatre in the West End. During his life it was a regular venue for late night gatherings and was frequented by Noel Coward, Mary Ellis, Lily Elsie, Elisabeth Welch and anyone who was anyone in the theatre.

Last year whilst working with BBC Radio 3 on a special Composer of the Week on Novello (as script consultant and guest of the week), I visited the famous flat during the recording of the show with Donald Macleod, who presents Composer of the Week, Luke Whitlock (producer) and Rosy Runciman the archivist for Cameron Mackintosh Ltd who now own the flat and use it as offices and Operations Manager Billy Differ. Remarkably after the passing of so many years it still retains a special atmosphere and is very recognisable still. Although Novello’s pianos are long gone from the music room, people say they still hear piano music playing sometimes in the far distance. When they investigate of course there is nothing there and the sound turns to silence. This experience made me start to put together and idea that has developed in A Marvellous Party! Novello & Noel

Set in Ivor Novello’s flat during the early hours, constructed like a play, and features Ivor, Noel Coward, Mary Ellis, Graham Payne and Elisabeth Welch. It features music by both Novello and Coward in equal measure. I have had great fun writing this and more importantly it allows space for these characters to come alive and tell their stories – giving the audience a glimpse into their work and relationships with each other and the world they lived in. I am also delighted that Ross Leadbetter will be developing the project with me and adapting the musical numbers.

Images: ivor Novello; Noel Coward; Mary Ellis; Elisabeth Welch; Graham Payne.

More information coming as soon as it is available –

      

 

                                                                                                                             The Music Room at ‘The Flat’

Dan Leno – A Royal Jester!

Dan Leno – A Royal Jester!

A New Play in Two Acts

By David Slattery-Christy

Delighted to announce that this play will receive its world premiere at this year’s Lytham Festival. 18 – 22 July 2018 at the Wesley Hall Theatre, Westby Street Lytham.

More Details and Casting Coming Soon. You will be in for a Royle Treat!

Delighted to say I am working on a new play based on the life and career of the legendary Victorian music-hall and Drury Lane pantomime star Dan Leno. It is something that has been in my mind for more than 25 years now. Even before that I had read much about, and become facinated by, the legend that was Dan Leno.

During the mid 1990’s I was lucky to have been given access to the private archive at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, to research material to do with Novello. One afternoon whilst there I was working away and on the far side of the room I heard the sound of papers falling from a shelf. Crossing the room I remember seeing the smiling face of Dan Leno staring back at me from an old publicity photograph. On further inspection I realised that the papers that had fallen were a part of piles of old contracts and programnmes and photographs of Dan Leno’s time at Drury Lane from 1888 to 1903 – when he appeared in the annual pantomimes and created some great and unique dame roles.

That experience has stayed with me all these years and actually brings a chill to my bones when I think of it now. How odd that those particular papers should of their own accord slip off the shelf and draw my attention? That said, it is common knowledge at Drury Lane that Dan makes himself known at times either back stage in the dressing room areas or in the wings on first nights – especially when he wants to help someone. They say that if you see him in the wings on a first night it means the show will be a hit. The picture I have attached to this article is the image of Dan Leno that smiled back at me that day – it shows him as Sister Anne in the pantomime Bluebeard at Drury Lane 1901.

From then on I have thought I must write a play. Recently I saw a pantomime and finally saw a performer who could play Dan Leno and bring all his facial, physical and comedic talents and give us a glimpse again of the greatness that was Dan Leno. It was like the final piece of a jigsaw for me – one that has enabled me to now set about the task of writing the play.

Dan Leno

(George Wild Galvin) 1860-1904

                                                             

The lonliness of a writer…

This picture sums up what it feels like to be a writer – and at times how lonely that occupation can be. You start with a blank sheet of paper. When you then give life to real characters, especially in a project like the Puccini play, it is like you reincarnate them and allow them a chance to live and breathe again, tell the story from their perspective, and experience all their realtionships and emotional complexities – making them face their demons again. For a few days you observe them with wonder as they live again and connect with you and the audience. Then they are gone and once again you are left alone at your desk with just the memories of what they were. Once again they are just words on paper. You then look at the next blank sheet of paper and wonder what life that will enable you to bring forth into the world.

David Slattery-Christy

15 August 2017

Elvira & I – Puccini’s Scandalous Passions! “Excellent…” BBC Radio Lancashire

“Excellent writing and cast…” BBC Radio Lancashire

 

“Every aspect of the production – the writing, the casting and performances, the set, the stage direction, the venue. Everything was wonderful. I feel privelidged to have been there to witness it and the great work that went behind it. It left a strong impression on me, like I’d experienced what living inside Puccini’s world must have been like…what an accomplishment…”

Ed Christiano

 

4 Star Review by Colin Davies – 4 August 2017

“The life of Giacomo Puccini is one full of scandal and passion. His relationship with Elvira one of volatile jealousy and love. A couple that were as bad for each other as they were good. Puccini the maestro with his “Rock ‘n’ Roll” status and life style. Elvira, considered common and not good enough for Giacomo, seen as the almost Yoko Ono character by the opera set.

Elvira and I, a new play by the highly respected playwright David Slattery Christy. Based on the research David has done for a Puccini biography, the play documents the life of these 2 characters from Puccini trying to rid his mind of the turmoil caused by writing Tosca by creating the much loved Madam Butterfly, through to his death, via the scandals that plagued his life. It brings forth a much better understanding of  Elvira’s role in his work and how, tortured by what nowadays we would understand as mental illness, she would descend in to the darkness of green eyed rage as her absolute love flirted with the maids and went about his not so secret affairs.

Christy’s script is solid. The dialogue is apt for the time. I believe Puccini was a massive fan of the F word and SH word. Though, in the heat of an argument Elvira would have the vocabulary of a sailor as well. The author’s knowledge and passion for the subject matter is evident in the telling of the story. All the details are there to help the audience understand which period of their life we had reached. The characters are written in a believable way that allow the performers to wear them rather than just play them. It is a play that has been crafted rather than assembled.

The actors do a great job at breathing life into Christy’ words. Riccardo Provenzano who plays Puccini may not sound Italian on stage (despite his name) however, his portrayal of a passionate artist is spot on. When he talks about his work, you can feel a real love for it, as if Puccini had himself given him director’s notes.

Riccardo Provenzano as Giacomo Puccini

Louise Steggals as Elvira does a great job with all the emotions she has to play. In one of the more subtle moments we see her, without words, become more jealous, and more enraged as Giacomo tells the story of Madam Butterfly’s final act. This is something I advise you look out for. It is sometimes too easy to be drawn to the one delivering the dialogue and miss beautiful moments such as this.

Susan Woodard (Iginia Puccini), Steve Deveney (Luigi Illica), Laura Nicol (Ida Bontura Razzi) and Jessica Kuiper (Doria Manfredi) all put in strong performances that fill out a rich tapestry of family and friendship. This interplay between them all has chemistry and you can see how much it means to them to deliver a performance. Every member of the cast hits the right notes with none of them being any weaker than another. This can only happen with hard work, dedication and respect for an audience.

Steve Deveney, Susan Woodard, Riccardo Provenzano, Louise Steggals, Jessica Kuiper and Laura Nicol

I have to mention the direction from Debra Smyth. Her understanding of the material is obvious. She lets her actors flow and move. In fact the use of the stage and auditorium is fantastic. The impressive set and costumes, created with advice from the Hollywood experienced Gillian Wood, is used to the maximum effect. Debra has her cast use every inch of the stage with a number of conversations continuing as the characters walk towards the lake, located behind the audience. It’s a bold step to allow your players to walk through the stalls as if it was an extension of the stage. This she does with aplomb.”

Colin Davies – AltBlackpool – 4 August 2017

Directed by Debra Smyth & David Slattery-Christy

Produced by Christyplays

Sound Design by David Brown

Lighting by Dan Creasey & Congo Design

Set by Christyplays

Costume Advisor – Gillian Wood

Thanks to Darren Mcneil for help with piano music for the play

Set Construction by Graham Greenwood

Special thanks to our costume sponsors – without whom this production would not have been possible.

Shirley Burrows, Jose Campbell, Jane Cross, Jim Cross, Catherine Currie, Nicki & Andy Grundy, Raymond Langford-Jones, Lesley Yalcin.

      

          

  

  

  

     

Centenary of USA Entering WW1 – Mildred On The Marne

Centenary of USA Entering WW1 – April 2017

Mildred on the Marne. Mildred Aldrich, Front-line Witness 1914-1918
By David Slattery-Christy
“The sun shines, and my heart is high, this is a great day. The Stars and Stripes are flying at my gate, and they are flying all over France.” Declared a delighted Mildred on hearing the news that her beloved homeland was finally entering the war to support the Allies in April 1917. But she added somewhat cautiously after the first rush of excitement: “It is not, I know, today or tomorrow that it will all end; it is not next year, or in many years, that poor Poland’s three mutilated parts can be joined and healed in harmony; and oh! How long is it going to be before all the sorrow and hatred that Germany has brought on the world can either be comforted or forgotten! But at least we are sure now of the course the treatment is going to take…”

(Mildred Aldrich diaries. Mildred on the Marne. Mildred Aldrich Front-line Witness 1914-1918)

Available from the History Press – Amazon – and all good bookstores in Hardback and Ebook editions. More information at www.christyplays.com

Mildred On The Marne, David Slattery-Christy

Mildred’s house , La Creste, on the hill at Huiry, France. Overlooking the Marne Valley and River.

 

Mildred on the Marne – Centenary Edition for USA Entering WW1 in 1917

Delighted to announce that my biography on American Mildred Aldrich is available in hardback for this year’s centenary of the USA entering WW1. The anniversary will be on 8th April, 2017. Mildred was overjoyed back in 1917 and had campaigned hard for her homeland to enter the war on the side of the Allies. Her home overlooking the Marne Valley in France had been at the forefront of the war – she stayed for the duration to help British and French soldiers. Her accounts of life for French civilians trying to live their daily lives whilst the conflict raged is also fascinating.

“The Stars & Stripes are flying at my gate, and they are flying all over France. What is more they will be flying – if they are not already – over Westminster, for the first time in history.”

Mildred Aldrich/ April 1917

More details coming soon.

Published by the History Press and Spellmount in the UK and the USA

Mildred on the Marne. Mildred Aldrich, Frontline Witness 1914-1918

Book Cover – Mildred’s House La Creste at Huiry, France – Amelie, Mildred’s friend and femme de manage