Sunday, 10 May 2015

Zoe Wanamaker in STEVIE

I'm so mortified that it has taken me so long to write this post. A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to get the chance to see Zoe Wanamaker starring on stage at the Hampstead Theatre. I adore Zoe - at home we have seen almost every episode of my My Family where she plays Susan Harper. And many will recognise her as Madam Hooch, the flying teacher in Harry Potter amongst many many other things - she is a British icon as far as acting goes.

On this occasion, she was playing the lead role of Stevie Smith in the play Stevie.

There are few things that have blown my mind, quite like this evening did. 

'Stevie' was written in 1977 and is about the life of poet Stevie Smith. She lives with her beloved aunt and her life story is told through direct dialogue with the audience by Stevie, as well as flashbacks.

Nervous and droll, Stevie Smith spends her days as a private secretary at the Newnes Publishing Company and her evenings in the London  suburbs eating Battenberg cake and Ginger Nuts with her beloved Aunt. All the time she is writing the piercing poetry and prose that will make her famous.

In between there are diverting visits from a series of men and, later on, tussles with literary  celebrity. Beyond everything there is her greatest, often darkly comic, struggle: to keep waving when she feels like drowning.

The main focus is on her relationship with her aunt, romantic relationships of the past (including her boyfriend Freddie) and the fame she received late in her life. Stevie escapes her dull middle-class existence through her poetry. Though she takes many spiritual flights of fancy, she never truly leaves the small apartment where all the action takes place. 

Theatre reviewers described her performance as "pulse-quickening" and "soulful" - it was an emotional roller-coaster and as there were only three cast members, Zoe / Stevie hardly left the stage. I felt very fond of the character by the end of the evening became very drawn to her.

I knew nothing about Stevie Smith before I saw the play and I instantly wanted to go home and read more about her. I only paid £15 (benefit of being under 30 years old!) and sat in the front row - and probably had the best seat in the entire house. *I think I sat right by the sofa pictured above so she was looking straight at me - our knees and feet were almost touching. 

Afterwards, I was invited to meet Zoe for a drink in her dressing room. Massive thumbs up all round. A real privilege to see theatre, which is rarely as brilliant as that. I was deeply moved. 

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