‘Love, Loss and What I Wore’ was delightful.
As theatres continue to reopen with a variety of performances, Centenary Theatre Group at Chelmer have thrown their hat in the ring with a contemporary play, written by women, for women and directed by a woman.
‘Love, Loss, and What I Wore’ first began as a best-selling book published in 1995, written and illustrated by Ilene Beckerman. The author recalls her life story in words and pictures by describing the dresses she owned at pivotal points in her life.
In 2008, successful screenwriter Nora Ephron teamed up with her sister, Delia, to write a play based on Beckerman’s memoir about what women wore and why. The play combines some of Beckerman’s stories, her best lines, and even a number of the illustrations from the book with recollections from friends, creating an engaging piece that celebrates life through not-so-forgotten clothing. From first bras and prom dresses to love, dressing like Madonna (who didn’t?!), same-sex marriage, motherhood, divorce, grief, rape and cancer – ‘Love, Loss, and What I Wore’ is an intimate collection of monologues and ensemble stories told by five women, using clothes and accessories to evoke a myriad of memories.
Under the direction of Rhyll Bucknell, this staged reading crackles and sparks its way along at a good pace as the women weave their way through the characters’ stories. Staging is simple but effective. The cast performs mostly sitting down with scripts on stands, all wearing black with a pop of bright pink here and there. A screen behind the women shows the various clothing illustrations and titles of each segment. Although this creates a static presentation visually, the energy of the performers produced its own movement and vitality. The lighting design, by Tristan Holland, generated just the right intimate mood needed and was used to great effect to highlight specific moments of the play.
Primarily an ensemble piece, one actor only relates ‘Gingy’s story’ – a character based on Beckerman herself who was so nicknamed due to the colour of her hair. The remaining four performers tell the stories of Holly, Lynne, Annie and Geralyn, as well as the ensemble moments such as ‘The Dressing Room’ (where nothing fits) ‘The Bra’, ‘The Prom Dress’ (first dates and that dress), ‘The Closet’ (nothing to wear) and ‘Why We All Wear Black’.
The ensemble cast is made up of seasoned performers: Penny Murphy (Gingy), Natalie Pedler (Holly), Alison Lees (Annie), Jill Brocklebank (Geralyn) and Meg Hinselwood (Lynne). Their experience shows as the women deliver many, many comedic and poignant moments with sincerity and heart. All are to be applauded for honest, sometimes courageous performances, with no over-playing of emotions. They bounced off each other beautifully and it was evident these women thoroughly enjoyed relating the stories and taking the audience on this journey of discovery.
There are few women who won’t identify with these very real characters and recognise the familiar scenarios. Although clearly aimed at the female of the species, the men in the audience also found the play very engaging.
‘Love, Loss, and What I Wore’ deals with some sensitive issues, but it is by no means a heavy piece. The skilled writing and performances enable the audience to ride the wave from sadness to hilarity with ease.
‘Love, Loss, and What I Wore’ performs until Saturday, 28 November 2020 at Centenary Theatre Group. For more information and to purchase tickets visit the Centenary Theatre Group website.