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Deirdre and Me, by Rachael Halliwell

Tuesday, 24 August, 2010

Street Life

Camden Fringe, Etcetera Theatre, 23 August, 7.30 (45 mins)

Deirdre's number one fan speaks out

This one-actor play was written by Rachael Halliwell who also plays the lead role of Susan, a lady of a certain age with a fascination for a TV star. It should charm and amuse anyone whose knowledge of Coronation Street stretches back a fair way, since the Deirdre of the title is of course the Deirdre of Corrie, whose career in the soap stretches back almost to the time when dinosaurs ruled the earth, or so it seems.

Susan, the character whose life is here explored, was born in 1974, the same week that Deirdre appeared on the cover of the Radio Times (or was it the TV Times?); whatever, you can see what I mean. And while Deirdre has spent the last thirty or forty years like a pinball, ricocheting from one crisis to another in her TV drama, Susan has been slipping quietly from fan to obsessive to worse.

The catalysts along that path have been the deaths of her parents. (Her father, of cancer when she was eleven. Her mother dies much more suddenly and recently). Her quiet friendlessness (working on the reception desk at a factory, where she is sporadically teased) is balanced by the proxy life she lives through the televised soap opera and its characters, and in particular, Deirdre.

So, it’s a drama of surface and sub-text as her explanations to us become more and more pointed and as the reality of the situation spirals gently at first, and then much more alarmingly out of control, and as our understanding of what is going on gets further and further from her comprehension. Susan is touchingly played by her creator Rachael Halliwell.

The set isn’t complex – a couple of chairs and a table, a candle burning as though in devotion to some odd sect – but there is clutter all around, copies of photos and postcards and TV magazines, and it is to this clutter that Susan obsessively returns in the brief intervals between her speeches.

The play is carefully directed by Louisa Fitzgerald and both she and Rachael Halliwell make the most of the many moments of comedy throughout the piece – both in terms of the script (‘She wore some lovely belt-skirt outfits’) and the props. (At one point, Susan dons some impressively huge glasses, which were, for so many years, Deirdre’s trademark in her TV role).

This is Rachael Halliwell’s first play as a writer and it is an assured debut.

Anyone who wants to be reminded of Deirdre’s chequered history over the many years of her TV performances will enjoy this play, and perhaps be warned in no uncertain terms about the dangers that might arise were enthusiams ever to slip into obsession.

Cast: Susan – Rachael Halliwell

Crew: Rachael Halliwell – Writer; Louisa Fitzgerald – Director; Company – Round Pebble Theatre (Producer – Eugenia Caruso).

Reviewed 23 August

(c) Michael Spring

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