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Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Desert Queen, a play by David Farn @ Washington Arts Centre - July 26.

Phillippa Wilson (Gertrude Bell); Brian Londsdale (various roles).
(Review by Lance)
I know, I know, not exactly material for a jazz blog but, the pace of the story, the injections of humour and pathos, have all the ingredients of an Ellington suite.
Amazingly, I'd never heard of Gertrude Bell until, maybe, 10 years ago. At school, we learned of such fearless females as Florence Nightingale and Grace Darling but, despite being born about 5 miles away in Washington, Co. Durham, ne'er a word about Gertrude Bell - arguably, one of the most influential women ever.
Tonight's play by David Farn, attempts to redress the balance and I'm sure that anyone who witnesses the show - there's another 9 performances in the region between now and August 6 - will come away fascinated by her story.
Phillippa Wilson portrays Gertrude exactly as I felt she should be portrayed. A woman in a man's world who rushed in where 'the stronger sex' feared to tread. Intelligent, multi-lingual, able to mingle with and enjoy the respect of, even unite, the various tribes of the Arab world.
A woman unfulfilled. A woman whose 3 big love affairs ended in tragedy. A woman whose greatest love was Persia and Arabia. A woman who stabilised warring tribes. A peacemaker. A kingmaker.
I fell in love with Gertrude, even though she died in 1926, after reading Georgina Howell's book, Gertrude Bell - Queen of the Desert. This production keeps the flame burning.
Wilson's co-star, Brian Londsdale, plays everybody who played a part in Gertrude Bell's life and, in doing so, adds a welcome touch of humour.
As I reminded myself at the beginning this is a jazz blog and the thought has just occurred to me that her story is tailormade for a jazz suite.
Composers, check it out and start writing.
In an earlier post, Russell previews the Francis Tulip Quartet's lunchtime gig tomorrow (Friday July 27) at the Lit and Phil. Well, would you believe it? The Desert Queen is being performed at the L&P tomorrow evening and again on Saturday afternoon and evening (July 28)!
See poster below for venues and times.
Lance



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