GERTRUDE STEIN AND A COMPANION. Written by Win Wells. Directed by Christopher Weare. Performed by Lynita Crofford and Shirley Johnston. Upstairs at the Alexander Bar.
MEGAN FURNISS reviews
Gertrude Stein and A Companion returns to the Alexander Bar for another short two week run after its initial success earlier in the year. If you missed it, but heard about how good it is, everything you heard is true and here is your chance to catch it.
This lyrical and completely absorbing piece delves into the extraordinary relationship between the writer Gertrude Stein and her long time companion Alice B. Toklas. It tells, through theatre, of their place in Paris and what it was like for two strange and eccentric Jewish ladies who were committed to living their fullest lives.
The production is perfectly suited for the tiny Alexander Bar space. A few carefully chosen pieces of furniture, costume, and props are all that is needed, as we fill in the empty spaces from our own imaginings. Music and slides continue to create the world inhabited by the two characters. And it is so vivid and full of sensual delight.
Superb actors, director in his element
Both Lynita, as Alice, and Shirley, as Gertrude, are superb. I have never seen either of them do anything like this and they are absolutely charming, clear, bold and amazing. Lynita’s Alice is solid and terse and grumpy and witty. She is also entirely transformed from her usual blonde and sexy self. Shirley’s Gertrude is expansive and cheeky and bold and lyrical. Her warmth and sparkle radiate from her. I loved them. I loved the characters and I loved the performers playing them.
The script is so good, moving from chatty and naturalistic to the poetry of intimacy in a beat, and the actors are on top of it all, with every articulated word in its place. I am seldom jealous of beautiful scripts, but this one made me wish I had written it.
Chris Weare is in his element here as a director. His control, pace, vision and even quirky humour is evident in this hour-long delight.
I am not a huge fan of biographical theatre. I admit, I find it boring and often quite predictable. But this charming and totally engaging piece is full of surprises and delights, and I was entertained, moved and totally satisfied by it.
It is also lovely to see this kind of relationship between two women at this particular time so truthfully portrayed without a sniff of scandal about it.
What: Gertrude Stein and a Companion
Where and when: Upstairs at the Alexander Bar from 9 to 20 October 2018