(The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Edinburgh, Scotland)
"An Evening With Beatrice Lillie"
Reviewed by Nick Scott
She actually did it! The Fringe brochure promised us that Beatrice Lillie would return to earth on roller skates - and what an entrance! The figure of Beatrice Lillie (played by Layne Littlepage, who also conceived and created the show) glided swiftly on to the stage, wearing a magnificent pair of angel's wings. And from that moment, the pace never waned for a second.
For the next hour, we were transfixed as Ms. Littlepage enthralled the audience with her portrayal of Canadian born actress and comedienne, Beatrice Lillie. Billed as the 'funniest woman in the world', Lillie worked on both sides of the Atlantic with some of the greatest names in entertainment - eventually settling in the UK, where she died in 1989 at the age of 94.
The show is interspersed with biographical facts and amusing anecdotes; but for the larger part, the evening is dedicated to Lillie's unique comedic skills and vocal prowess. And Ms. Littlepage's characterisation of Beatrice Lillie is so uncannily convincing, she gives the illusion that one is actually in the presence of the great woman herself!
Ms. Littlepage's energetic performance leaves you reeling - she simply knocks you out with her astounding verbal dexterity and clever mimicry.
Pianist and Musical Director, Barney Hulse combines the roles of accompanist and actor with aplomb - joining Ms. Littlepage with some stunning verbal gymnastics, as in the sketch, 'Double Damask Dinner Napkins'; and as a waiter in 'Milady Dines Alone'.
The show is slick, cleverly and lovingly crafted - and above all, highly entertaining.
This Fringe run marks the show's European Premier - the musical having already been hailed with great acclaim in America.
© Nick Scott. 23 August 2004. Published on www.edinburghguide.com.