Marie - The Story of Marie Lloyd

Steve Trafford
Ensemble and York Theatre Royal
York Theatre Royal Studio
(2008)

Production photo

Marie Lloyd was a woman of many parts, 'most of them no longer manufactured' as she says with a wink at her adoring audience. Known as the Queen of the Music Halls, Lloyd performed her 'saucy' songs to huge crowds in the Late Victorian and Edwardian eras, touring her acts worldwide to great success. With a fantastically independent and candid attitude to life, she was born to perform, starting out aged 12 singing in temperance halls and her life ending after she finally collapsed on stage aged 52 and died three days later.

Performed by Oliver Award nominee Elizabeth Mansfield, accompanied by Stephen Rose on the piano, this is both an enchantingly intimate show giving us the personal life of Marie yet managing to create a fascinating glimpse into the raucous atmosphere of the real music halls. Mansfield is sublime as Marie Lloyd, charming with her cheeky smiles and applaudable honesty but also fantastically naughty in her hilarious rendition of 'Come into the Garden Maud'. In a simple set of footlights, red velvet curtain, a large brandy and her many, bright costumes Mansfield strips down to her corset and bloomers and gives us a woman brim full of life and generosity. Such was Marie Lloyd's infamous character that the audience is almost swept up into her to become just another extension of her huge personality and Mansfield does just that by inviting her fans to join in as she sings her hit songs.

As she sings classics like 'Don't Dilly Dally on the Way', 'Oh! Mr Porter' and 'A Little of What You Fancy Does You Good', writer Steve Trafford seamlessly works these pieces into the tale of Marie's life. While these songs may be easily recognizable to a more mature audience, they carry less weight and familiarity with younger theatre goers. This is not to deny their appeal, but it does open avenues for a nostalgia trip for some and not for others. However the story of Marie Lloyd is still one of an exceptional woman who lived her life flouting the hypocritical conventions of her time and making her mark wherever she went.

There is almost not enough time to tell all the tales of Marie Lloyd's life in this piece with some of her darker moments rather scantily depicted but this is the story of a good-time, show-stopping performer and Mansfield brilliantly maintains the spirit of the relentless entertainer throughout. With perfect joie de vivre Trafford's writing and Mansfield's performance leaves you wishing you could really have known the irresistible atmosphere of the amazing music halls. When she sings Lloyd's signature piece 'The Boy I Love is Up In the Gallery' there's no doubt you can see him in your mind's eye waving back at her with all his might.

Reviewer: Cecily Boys