Sid And Valerie
3 stars ***
Summerhall (Venue 26)
In my bag, there’s a packet of Werther’s originals, handed out as a parting gift to every member of the audience at this new show by Sue Maclaine and Emma Kilbey; and it’s a strangely appropriate gift, from a show that offers a skewed and distrbing sideways glance at mid-20th-century British life, and its ever-cheerful showbiz culture. As veteran entertainer Sid and his fortysomething daughter take the stage, it’s clear from Valerie’s boundlessly expressive face, in Kilbey’s terrific performance, that everything in the garden is not lovely. She hates the old man with the deep, hurt hatred of an unloved daughter who was never the child the old man wanted; he thinks she is useless, both as a daughter and as a performer, and never hesitates to make his feelings clear.
Like a miniature version of John Osborne’s The Entertainer, in other words, this is a show that sets out to reveal the shser cruelty that lurks behind the smile of the much-loved public entertainer; in an age of searing revelations about what went on behind closed doors in British showbiz circles in the 1960’s and 70’s, it comes as a timely reminder that emotional abuse can do at least as much damage. And it’s all enlivened by a little tap-dancing from the eerily genial Sid, as well as some passionate Shirley Bassey songs from the unhappy Valerie; and by those Werther’s Originals, of course, little packages of dependable pleasure, in an otherwise bleak world.