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PETER FROST reviews The Marie Lloyd Story at the Harborough Theatre, Market Harborough and then touring various venues throughout Britain.

It is 95 years since Marie Lloyd, the greatest music hall star ever collapsed on stage. A week later aged just 52 she was dead.

Her fame and her reputation still live on and her latest incarnation is in a fascinating two woman show touring small regional theatres.

Judy Daykin is Marie and Karen Hill Vesta Tilley. The play uses plenty of sing-along songs to help tell the story.

We learn of Marie’s strong socialist working-class principles that led to her leading role in the 1907 Music Hall Strike. Despite her own success and good wages Marie always supported other performers. Along with her second of three husbands, Alec Hurley, she founded a Union that is still alive in today’s Equity.

We meet Belle Elmore, second rate performer but first class strike breaker. Sadly Belle found her real fame as the murdered wife of Dr. Crippen.

Marie always remained true to her principles. Both here and in America she fought censorship and hypocrisy and suffered for it. Her left-wing anti-establishment views saw her excluded from the first 1912 Royal Command Performance.

She hired a nearby theatre where placards proclaimed: “Every performance by Marie Lloyd is a command performance – by command of the British public.”

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We also witness the abuse Marie received from two of her three husbands. Despite her huge popularity it drove her to depression, poverty, drink and eventually to her premature death.

This is a really enjoyable show telling the story of an amazing woman – how often do you get to celebrate a great working class hero as well as to sit back and join Marie Lloyd in a music hall sing-a-long?  All together now; My old man said follow the van…

To find your nearest performance contact http://broadhorizonstheatre.co.uk.

This review first appeared in the Morning Star 23 March 2017. 

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