Mrs Henderson Presents, Theatre Royal, Bath - review: Lavish furs and acidic put-downs

Tracie Bennett is on feisty form

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The Independent Culture

As bright as a showgirl’s sequin and as patriotic as a jam sandwich, Terry Johnson’s new stage musical is based on the original screenplay of the 2005 film starring Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins.

The Windmill was founded in 1931 by wealthy widow Laura Henderson as a venue for lengthy variety shows. In need of some direction, Mrs H brings in pompous manager Vivian Van Damm and together they reinvigorate the fading “Revudeville” show with the idea of having motionless tableaux of nude girls – motionless in order to exploit a loophole in the Lord Chamberlain’s zero tolerance of on-stage nudity.

The one person who stays firmly wrapped up – in a number of lavish furs – is Mrs H herself. Olivier award-winner Tracie Bennett is on feisty form quivering somewhere between naïve amateur enthusiasm and acidic put-downs. She rather outshines her counterpart Ian Bartholomew, whose pinstriped performance as Van Damm errs on the over-earnest.

The other compelling voice in the show belongs to Emma Williams as Maureen, the tea girl who rises to be star of the tableaux.

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