Blonde Bombshells of 1943

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Just before Tuesday evening's performance of 'Blonde Bombshells of 1943' I rock up to the box office at Pitlochry Festival Theatre.  Due to a scheduling mishap far too long and hilarious to go into here, I have neither a plus one nor, for that matter, any tickets.  The tremendously helpful staff print me out a replacement ticket and I've even got time for a nice strong filter coffee in the bar before taking my seat.

'Blonde Bombshells' begins with a framing device whereby Lynwen Haf Roberts recounts a song, 'If I Had A Ribbon Bow', that her grandmother Liz used to sing to her.  The scene then shifts to the day in 1943 that Liz, still a schoolgirl, learned that song.  A day she also learned all about love, sex and death.  As she puts it 'once upon a hell of a day.'

The events take place over the course of a single day in 1943 as bandleader Betty, played by Emelie Patry, attempts to recruit a new Blonde Bombshell and rehearse ahead of a BBC radio performance that evening.  It's funny stuff as a band of misfit musicians assemble and begin to perform.  I think the best way to describe it is Vera Lynn meets 'The Commitments'.

Fiona Wood is stupendous as a ukelele-clutching singing nun and is reminiscent of Jane Horrocks as Bubble in Absolutely Fabulous. 

Fiona Wood is stupendous as a ukelele-clutching, singing nun and is reminiscent of Jane Horrocks as Bubble in Absolutely Fabulous.  At one point she asks: "What is it that's so funny about nuns anyway?"  I don't know why they're such a consistent source of humour but in this play, they're bloody hilarious.  

The band's numbers are rounded out by the draft-dodging Patrick played by Alexander Bean who once again puts his considerable musical and vocal skills to great use and is the butt of some good drummer jokes. 

My favourite character though is the uber posh and disdainful upper-class officer, Miranda, played by Tilly-Mae Millbrook.  She has all the best lines and delivers them with relish.   "This one seems to go down well with the plebs," she says wiping down the mouthpiece of her saxophone before launching into a bravura performance of 'Body and Soul'.


The final act of the play consists of the cast performing their set.  This didn't work quite as well as the first half for me.  The songs performed in the earlier stages of the play are often broken up with funny one-liners and plot development whereas in the second half it played out like a straight concert.

With that said, there are still some great moments particularly 'T'Ain't What You Do', but to paraphrase the great Austin Powers, some of the songs just weren't my bag.  'Tweet Tweet' is a little bit like something Mr Boom would sing although it was redeemed by Miranda pouting and making baby eyes at some of the older gentlemen in the front row.  I thought she was going to give them a coronary!  And as with 'Summer Holiday' I was unbelievably impressed with the musical talent and versatility of the amazing cast.

I'm probably not the target audience for 'Blonde Bondshells of 1943' and some of the songs didn't really connect with me.  However, it still has a lot to recommend it.  Of the four plays I've seen at Pitlochry, it has the best performances and the majority female cast really make the most of the snappy dialogue and sing some utterly exquisite harmonies.  Tilly-Mae Millbrook alone is worth the price of admission as the vampishly clueless Miranda.  The audience, who once again didn't restrain from a wee sing-song, seemed to enjoy the hell out of it.

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