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.
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
There was plenty there to leave you thinking about what it means to be human.” Dave Blacker
There was plenty there to leave you thinking about what it means to be human.” Dave Blacker
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.
(George Wild Galvin) 1860-1904
“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…”
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.
Well, what a brilliant Christmas and New Year it has been for Ivor Novello! They say everything comes in threes, and it seem that is exactly what happened.
The BBC Radio 3 Composer of the Week programmes dedicated to Ivor were brilliant with lots of new recording by the BBC Concert Orchestra, solos by @SimonLepper and @KittyWhateley and recordings by the lovely Marylin Hill Smith to name a few. There were also brilliant sections with Billy Differ (Operations Manager for Sir Cameron Mackintosh) in Novello’s old flat, and also with Rosy Runciman who is the archivist for Sir Cameron Mackintosh.
One listener said: “Sensitively researched life story combined with location insights AND the music – worth the @BBC licence fee on its own.” Another said: “@BBCRadio3 @DSCAuthor “Ivor Novello” Awarded the best @BBCRadio3 programme of the year!”
In addition to this I was delighted to release a 10th Anniversary edition of my Novello biography to tie in with the BBC Radio 3 Composer of the Week series. As I was guest of the week for the programmes, it seemed fitting and timely. ‘Ivor Novello – In Search of Ruritania‘ now available in both paperback and Kindle editions. Excellent and encouraging 5 star reviews!
January sees the publication of The Oxford Handbook of The British Musical – So thrilled that my Ivor Novello biography – In Search of Ruritania – informed this study and is listed in the reference and bibliography section. Thanks to Stewart Nicholls who wrote the section on operetta that includes Novello.
I came across this portrait of Novello by Emile Veresmith. It was painted in 1924 and captures him in quite a dark way – I wonder if the artist caught the melancholy and depression that so haunted Novello at times. Food for thought!
Well that’s all for now. Not sure if/when the recordings made by the BBC Concert orchestra will be available – but for those who have asked I will let you know if I hear anything from the BBC regarding this. Thank you to Donald Macleod and producer Luke Whitlock at BBC Radio 3.
Happy New Year to all –
Delighted with this great article of my interview with the Operetta Research Center about Ivor and the BBC Radio 3 Composer of the Week broadcasts dedicated to him starting Boxing Day at 12 noon.
I am delighted to announce that a brand new 3rd edition of my Ivor Novello biography – In Search of Ruritania – will be released for Christmas 2016. The book will be updated, new information added, along with extra images to celebrate its 10th birthday. It will be available in Paperback and Kindle editions.
It will tie in with the broadcast by BBC Radio 3 – and their Composer of the Week dedicated to Novello – that I worked as Novello consultant on, and will be guest interviewee for the week. Presented by Donald Macleod and Produced by Luke Whitlock for the BBC. Due to be broadcast on Boxing Day 2016 for five days.