Review: Dusty Won’t Play, Oran Mor

Simo Donaldson, Frances  Thorburn.jpgThere are definite parallels with the civil rights movements of the sixties and Trump’s recent travel bans within the late playwright Annie Caulfield’s  show- the opener for the Spring season of PPP. So it is timely indeed. When Dusty Springfield refused to play to segregated audiences on a South African tour in the mid-sixties, she came up against apartheid, in the form of some incredibly menacing police official types, who threatened her and her band The Echoes.

A Play, A Pie and a Pint favourite Frances Thorburn portrays Springfield as twofold- Mary O’ Brien, the good, prim Catholic girl, all Chatty Cathy and cups of tea; and as the burgeoning superstar- minxy, stubborn and very much her own woman. So, as a character study with the emphasis on Springfield it’s fine, Thorburn giving the sliver of vulnerability always lurking under that famous heavy eye make-up and those backcombed wigs.


However, Caulfield’s script feels perfunctory at times. Kevin Lennon and Simon Donaldson’s characters are a little underwritten, so it is hard to get a hook into inter-band relationships, or the real danger they faced.A musical should have a little heft to lift it beyond mere entertainment, and with its join-the-dots exposition and occasionally clunky dialogue, it never feels spectacular.

But Thorburn and the duo are consistently excellent all round: the timeless music is of course wonderful- their  goosebump-inducing harmonies really elevate the show. An emotionally taut You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me and a stripped-back, more downbeat take on Martha and the Vandellas’ Dancin’ in the Street give moments of shivery poignancy. And Son of a Preacher Man  nearly raises the roof.Flaws aside, a crowd-pleasing start to the new season.

(Lorna Irvine)

Images by Leslie Black


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