tue 23/07/2024

Say It With Flowers, Sherman Theatre, Cardiff | reviews, news & interviews

Say It With Flowers, Sherman Theatre, Cardiff

Say It With Flowers, Sherman Theatre, Cardiff

New play about tragic Welsh diva Dorothy Squires misses the real story

Star of the show: Gillian Kirkpatrick as the young Dorothy SquiresFarrows Creative

There is a glaring irony in that a play about an all-consuming obsession with one thing (fame) has no real idea of what it itself is supposed to be. Say It With Flowers, a purported biography of iconic lounge singer Dorothy Squires, teases at the sequins of the musical, the psychological drama, the tragi-comedy, the biopic, gritty realism, expressionism, and soap opera, but eventually falls between the cracks of all these. It makes for a frustrating two hours.

The life of Squires was full of incident, scandal and fractured relationships. She was a star, the spotlight kid, who set off from her humble home in the Welsh valleys as a young girl to find fame and fortune with the only thing she perceived she had going for her: “the song”. For a time she lived the stereotype of the star’s life; the parties at her place were the stuff of legend. She discovered, married and was betrayed by Roger Moore; she found herself in legal battles and family disputes and ended up destitute and dying back where she came from. It is, in essence, the archetypal rags-to-riches-to-rags story, but Meic Povey and Johnny Tudor’s drama does very little to build on this, rarely offers any real insight into the character of Squires, and doesn’t even really seem to have the inclination to explore in any depth what a cruel destructive woman she could be. There are acerbic lines, and fiery arguments, but these are the stuff of soap opera.

Ruth Madoc as the aged Squires (pictured right) feels neither nasty nor sardonic enough. The final hospital scene, unfortunately, brings to mind Ethel Merman’s cameo in Airplane! rather than the poignant end to a life lived. Lynn Hunter gives a spirited and crowd-pleasing performance as the Squires superfan who takes her in and bolsters the former star’s fantasy, but she has too much stage time and she is in danger of stealing the show (from two Dorothy Squires, no less). Heledd Gwynn does a good job with very little as Squires’ niece Emily; and in Matt Nalton we have someone who explores the very essence of oak in his portrayal of the famously wooden Roger Moore.

The star of the show, and rightly so, is Gillian Kirkpatrick, who portrays Dorothy from bright-eyed schoolgirl to paranoid pill-popping star on the verge of disaster. Her voice is infinitely more interesting than Squires’ show-stopping Vegas-singed pyrotechnics, and she ages and corrodes with a subtlety and conviction not found in the rest of the production.

As for the play itself, the most dramatic stories all seem to occur offstage. The famous fire at her home, Bexley, is just one event alluded to but passed over. And in Lynn Hunter’s Maisie there is a suspicion that the most interesting story of all is being ignored: that of ageing, lonely superfan, kids grown up and moved away, who invests so much of herself into Squires that when Squires dies, you wonder what will become of her.

There is a fascinating, dark, poignant and moving parable in the life of Dorothy Squires. There is also a big brash musical that could conquer the world. Say It With Flowers is neither of those things.

The play doesn’t have the inclination to explore in any depth what a cruel destructive woman Squires could be


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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