Edwardian actress Lily Elsie has a Blue Plaque!

     

Joseph Coyne & Lily Elsie in The Merry Widow 1907

Thank you to all those who attended the unveiling of the Blue Plaque for Edwardian actress Lily Elsie (1886-1962) on Friday 16th August at her former London home at Stanhope Place, Hyde Park. It really was a lovely, special morning in honour of one of London theatre’s greatest stars of the early 20th Century. Special thanks to West End actress and soprano Rosie Ashe for officiating and Roy Hudd OBE and his lovely wife Debbie for their support. Thanks also to Geoff Bowden and his partner David, Victoria Willis and her daughter Flora, Robert Smith my agent, Raymond Langford Jones, Lynn Nortcliff, Mark Abrahams, Peter for taking the official pictures and Dimitri Paleocrassas the current owner of the building. We did Lily Elsie (1886-1962) proud indeed! Graham & I were delighted.

       

David Slattery-Christy, Rosemary Ashe and Roy Hudd OBE

Thank you for a lovely write up, Raymond Langford Jones I’ve just spent a fabulous couple of hours at a special event organised by David Slattery-Christy celebrating the life of Edwardian beauty and singer Lily Elsie (1886-1962) – the unveiling of a blue plaque at her old London home in Stanhope Place, near Marble Arch.

Rosemary Ashe, currently appearing in The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 and 3/4 at the Ambassadors, gave a charming speech conveying the essence of the great star of the Edwardian stage and original Merry Widow – who was also a good friend of Ivor Novello. Both personalities, famous during their own champagne-supper times, may now be only glamorous photo images in coffee table books for today’s theatre-goers, so we have David to thank for helping keep their spirits alive in his biographies – and by instigating memorials such as this.

The event was also opportunity to chat to the warm, ever-youthful Roy Hudd, presently touring in Dominic Dromgoole’s production of A Woman of No Importance where he’s covering the entr’actes with period numbers in his own inimitable manner. He’s a Croydon boy, so we had lots in common there. I mentioned how I’d always loved the News Huddlines and how June Whitfield was the best ‘Maggie Thatcher’. This led on to him telling me how she had landed the job, by nailing the PM in an informal impersonation and obliterating initial concerns as to her suitability for the show.

We went on to decry the death of intimate revue in the ’60s, and how its requirement for versatility had once provided a wonderful training ground for emerging actors of an earlier generation, including Kenneth Williams and Maggie Smith.

Rosie Ashe is another, albeit somewhat younger, performer who has kept a high West End profile down the decades thanks to her adaptability and upbeat personality. Thirty years ago I remember seeing her as Hortense in The Boy Friend at The Albery in St Martin’s Lane and, during the run, also surprised to find her on a night away from Nice, as the ‘breeches’ role in Richard Strauss’s Arabella at the Coliseum across the road. She was marvellous in both.

Rosie was also one of the best things in The Witches of Eastwick (for which she gained an Olivier Award nomination as Best Supporting Performance in a Musical) and is now sharing a dressing room with Ian Talbot in the cramped backstage conditions of the frantic Mole set-up. She drew a hilarious picture of how, each night after the show, they relax in their underwear swiging back cans of G&T!

What both actors agreed on, was how longevity in the theatre can, in part, be due to getting on with people and being willing to turn your hand to anything that’s offered. Professionalism in other words. And, of course, there’s that indefinable ‘star quality’ which they both possess in abundance.

Thank you, David, for a fascinating time!

 

Raymond Langford-Jones, Victoria Willis, Flora Willis, Roy Hudd OBE, David SLattery-Christy, Lynn Nortcliff, Dimitri Paleocrassas, Mark Abrahams, Robert Smith, Debbie Hudd.

Dan Leno – A Royal Jester! Eastbourne Success

Thank you Eastbourne and The Royal Hippodrome Theatre!

What a fabulous audience we had at the Royal Hippodrome Theatre in Eastbourne – a standing ovation for Steve Royle and the cast. Were also delighted to discover that the legend Roy Hudd was in the audience along with his lovely wife, Debbie. They met all the cast afterwards and were full of praise for the play which was a real accolade indeed. It was the icing and the cherry on the cake!

Thanks also to everyone at the British Music Hall Society for their help and for allowing us to follow your Day by the Sea event to make it a Weekend by the Sea of music hall! Thanks also to Alex and all the brilliant back stage staff and front of house gang at the Royal Hippodrome Theatre for making us so welcome and supporting us so wonderfully.

Lou Steggals, Steve Royle, Nicole Violet,

Andy Cooke & Neil Rowland

Roy Hudd & Steve Royle

Neil Rowland, Roy Hudd, Debbie Hudd & Steve Royle

      

Royal Hippodrome ready for Dan Leno – Andy Cooke & Roy Hudd

      

Roy Hudd with Playwright David Slattery-Christy & Steve Royle

 

Thank You Stratford Upon Avon & Playhouse Theatre!

What a brilliant time we had at the the Stratford Playhouse performing Dan Leno – A Royal Jester! The audiences were amazing as was the venue and all the staff including Rebecca, Phil and Noel. Thank you for making us so very welcome.

What a great evening! Didn’t know whether to laugh or cry..so did both!
A really fantastic, important and poignant story with amazing performances!

 

Dan Leno – A Royal Jester! Reviews are in…

Reviews are in for the premiere of Dan Leno – A Royal Jester! Starring Steve Royle supported by a fabulous cast. Lytham Festival 2018:
    
“Congratulations to Steve Royle for an award worthy performance…it’s a must see. Good luck to the cast and writer David Slattery-Christy” Robin Duke
“Steve Royles’s performance was extraordinary…it took the whole production from being an amazing play to an utter triumph.” (Alt Blackpool)
“Slattery-Christy’s ability as a writer really shines…the story moves along in such a way as to show the wonderful style and material of Leno’s performances, while in the same moment the heartbreak and tragedy of his tortured genius.” (Colin Davies)
“There is tragedy and there is comedy but in drama when the two melt together like twilight into evening, then you know you are witnessing something very special…The cast, Nicole Violet, Jordan Kennedy, Louise Steggals, Andy Cooke is excellent with its renditions of music hall songs and choreographed appearances, but it is Steve Royle’s night… this performance takes him to a new level…a production not to be missed.” (Susan Duke – Entertainment Then & Now)
“A Supreme performance by Steve Royle ensured that David Slattery-Christy’s biographical play about Victorian music hall star Dan Leno was both comical, gripping and poignant…he fully inhabits the role and simply is Dan Leno.” (Julian Wilde – Lancashire Evening Post / Evening Gazette)
“It was funny, tragic and very contemporary. With mental health, the cult of the individual, finding real self and the perennial themes of love and redemption, not at a time of strength but of great vulnerability.
There was plenty there to leave you thinking about what it means to be human.” Dave Blacker
Thanks to Martyn Coyne, Michael Ellison and Andy Hollingworth for brilliant, unusual and fantastic rehearsal and production photographs. These are just a taster –

BBC Radio Lancashire Dan Leno Interview

Delighted to have joined Sally Naden on her BBC Radio Lancashire on Tuesday 17th April. Steve Royle and I talked about Dan Leno – A Royal Jester! and the upcoming world premiere at this year’s Lytham festival. Performance dates are 18 to 22 July. Wed to Sat evenings at 7.30 and Fri and Sun matinees at 2pm. Tickets now available – just follow the link at below –

Tickets now available. Click on above image. Add the Promo Code LYTHAMFEST or STEVEROYLE and get a £2 discount on your booking! Limited offer so book now!

Dan Leno – A Royal Jester! Starring Steve Royle

Reviews are in for the premiere of Dan Leno – A Royal Jester! Starring Steve Royle at Lytham Festival 2018:
    
“Congratulations to Steve Royle for an award worthy performance…it’s a must see. Good luck to the cast and writer David Slattery-Christy” Robin Duke
“Steve Royles’s performance was extraordinary…it took the whole production from being an amazing play to an utter triumph.” (Alt Blackpool)
“Slattery-Christy’s ability as a writer really shines…the story moves along in such a way as to show the wonderful style and material of Leno’s performances, while in the same moment the heartbreak and tragedy of his tortured genius.” (Colin Davies)
“There is tragedy and there is comedy but in drama when the two melt together like twilight into evening, then you know you are witnessing something very special…The cast, Nicole Violet, Jordan Kennedy, Louise Steggals, Andy Cooke is excellent with its renditions of music hall songs and choreographed appearances, but it is Steve Royle’s night… this performance takes him to a new level…a production not to be missed.” (Susan Duke – Entertainment Then & Now)
“A Supreme performance by Steve Royle ensured that David Slattery-Christy’s biographical play about Victorian music hall star Dan Leno was both comical, gripping and poignant…he fully inhabits the role and simply is Dan Leno.” (Julian Wilde – Lancashire Evening Post / Evening Gazette)
“It was funny, tragic and very contemporary. With mental health, the cult of the individual, finding real self and the perennial themes of love and redemption, not at a time of strength but of great vulnerability.
There was plenty there to leave you thinking about what it means to be human.” Dave Blacker
Thanks to Martyn Coyne, Michael Ellison and Andy Hollingworth for brilliant, unusual and fantastic rehearsal and production photographs. These are just a taster –
Funnyman Steve Royle from BBC Radio Lancashire and Phoenix Nights will lead the cast in the world premiere of new play Dan Leno: A Royal Jester as part of this year’s Lytham Festival celebrations.
The exciting new play, which charts the life of Dan Leno who developed his skills as an artist in the Northern and Lancashire Music Halls and became a champion clog dancer, acrobat and comedian, will take place at Lytham’s Wesley Hall Theatre from Wednesday July 18th to Sunday 22nd.
Written & Directed By
David Slattery-Christy
This exciting new play charts the life of Dan Leno who developed his skills as an artist in the Northern and Lancashire Music Halls and became a champion clog dancer, acrobat and comedian. He then went on to become a huge celebrity in the London theatres and established his name as the pre-eminent pantomime star at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, where he created some iconic dame roles, and became a favourite of King Edward VII and the Royal family.
Playwright David Slattery-Christy said: “It’s exciting to bring another new play to the Lytham Festival as an official event. This play has been in my head for a long time – but it wasn’t until I saw Steve Royle’s performance in a show last year that I finally discovered an artist who I felt could portray Dan Leno and his comedy. Dan’s story is funny and sad in equal measure – and the play also includes some classic music-hall songs of the period.”
“I am flattered and thrilled to be asked to play this legendary music-hall star,” said Steve Royle, adding, “Dan Leno was as passionate about pantomime as I am and hopefully I will be able to do him justice? I began as an actor with Oldham Theatre Workshop 30 years ago and I look forward to taking on the role with excitement and fear in equal measure.”
The play will run from Wednesday 18th July until Sunday 22nd July at the Wesley Hall Theatre, Methodist Church, Park & Westby St, Lytham FY8 5LU. Evenings Weds to Sat at 7.30pm. Matinees Fri & Sun at 2pm. Tickets from £8. Day Seats £10. Further casting to be announced.
Available for interviews and features. Please call David Slattery-Christy on
Cast
Steve RoyleDan Leno
Andy CookeDoctor Savage / Henry Beerbohm Tree
Jordan KennedyHenry Wild Galvin (Dan’s brother)
Laura NicolLydia Leno (Dan’s wife)
Louise SteggalsNurse Kelly
The play includes original Dan Leno character monologues and
popular music hall songs of the period.
Choreography: Debra Smyth       Musical Director: Darren McNeil
Costumes: Gillian Wood            Sound Design: David Brown
Set Design & Construction: Graham Greenwood & Christyplays
Lighting: Dan Creasey & Congo Design
Christyplays is a cooperative of North West based professionals.
 
Dan Leno (George Wild Galvin) 1860-1904 – was born in London into an impoverished music-hall family. His parents worked the northern music-halls of Manchester and Lancashire. His father died when he was four and his mother remarried. Dan spent much of his childhood performing with his family and brother billed as ‘The Great Little Lenos’. It was in Lancashire he was taught to clog dance and became a champion. After an accident on stage when he hurt his back be moved his performance away from tumbling and contortion and developed as a patter singer and comedian – it was this development that led him to create gossipy comic male and female characters that his audiences loved. Returning to London he became a big star of the pre-eminent theatres and went on to also star in pantomime at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, where he created some memorable pantomime roles such as Mother Goose. His health deteriortated and he began to become irrational and forgetting his lines. He was thought to be insane, and spent time in the Camberwell Asylum, but it is now widely accepted that he was suffering from a brain tumour that changed his personality and eventually killed him at the young age of 43.

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.