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You’re Not Like The Other Girls, Chrissy

Wednesday, 18 August, 2010

Courage under Fire

Edinburgh 10 – Pleasance Courtyard – 5-30 August­­ 2010 – 12.45 (1:00)

Caroline Horton as Chrissy

You’re Not Like The Other Girls Chrissy is a one-woman play which tugs on the heartstrings while telling a remarkable story of courage under fire.

Under the guise of the indomitable Chrissy, Caroline Horton recounts her beguiling tale of a Parisian who meets the love of her life during a trip to England in the 1930s.  She tells the story as she queues for a train ticket at the Gard Du Nord, a place which is to be pivotal at several points during the weaving plot.

A chance encounter at, of all places, Cheadle tennis club leads to a return visit to a festive Paris and, ultimately, a proposal of marriage from the lovestruck Cyril.  But when war is declared, the couple are forced apart.  Left to follow their own separate destinies, at times it seems that they are fated to never find true happiness.  A dramatic and daring return to Nazi-occupied Paris, following a period of voluntary exile as a governess, gives Chrissy renewed hope that her dream of a married life in England could still come true.

The production, which takes place in front of a large French flag, is simply staged but makes use of a number of intricate dioramas contained in suitcases carried by Chrissy at the start of the performance.  These self-contained worlds communicate everything from the Paris skyline to a BBC wartime radio studio and add an extra visual twist to the play.

Caroline Horton gives a tour de force performance as Chrissy, shifting through several emotional gears throughout the monologue.  With not a word out of place or a single hesitation she navigates the complex plot and a range of accents effortlessly.

The first third of the play, before the war, is played in a lightly comic way, with much of the humour stemming from Chrissy’s slightly confused English.  She describes herself “like a hot cat on a tin roof” or as “the cat with the cream and the knees of the bees”.  Her quite singular pursuit of her beloved Cyril is also rich with comic potential, in particular her courting of the slightly uptight English teacher in passionate Paris.

But the tone of the piece, and of Chrissy, quickly changes as France and Britain enter the war against the Nazis.  The description of life under enemy occupation is both affecting and fascinating and, while she remains sweet and likeable, she also develops a steely edge.  She is driven on through misfortune and hard times by the love she feels and a determination that all will be well in the end.  Every tarot card reading, telegram or item of news is seized upon as some cast-iron omen from the gods.

The end, when it comes, is given added resonance with a key revelation by the performer, putting everything that went before into sharp context.

Cast Credits: Caroline Horton – Chrissy.

Company Credits: Writer – Caroline Horton.  Producer – Ed Collier.  Co-directors – Omar Elerian and Daniel Goldman.  Dramaturg/Assistant Director – Clare Betney.  Lighting Designer – Ben Pacey.  Commissioned by: China Plate/Warwick Arts Centre/mac.

(c) David Hepburn 2010

Reviewed Thursday 12 August / Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh, UK

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