This very personal portrait of a woman who led a very public life being adored by millions is heartwarming and funny from beginning to end.
Lucille Ball is fondly remembered by many people for the role of Lucy Ricardo in the hit sitcom I Love Lucy. This play was written by one of her closest friends, Lee Tannen who was one of Lucille’s closest companions in the last years of her life.
Flitting between New York and Beverley Hills, the tale of the extraordinary friendship between Ball and Tannen is vividly brought to life thanks to the simple and stylish direction of Anthony Biggs and two very grounded performances from Sandra Dickinson as Lucy and Matthew Bunn as Lee.
Together, the pair are sharp and convincing in creating a picture of their character’s friendship. Sandra Dickinson’s Lucy is bright as a button a force of nature and a character that has many different layers to her that reveal exactly how complicated she was when not performing for an audience. Meanwhile Matthew Bunn as Lee is clearly enthusiastic and adores Lucille -even when he reaches breaking point and is chucked out of Lucille’s company for reasons not made clear.
The play and the production is suitable for those who adored I Love Lucy and Lucille Ball herself, so if you are unfamiliar with either then perhaps it will leave you feeling confused in places.
Filled with a variety of stories that are told while the pair are having games of backgammon it is fascinating to listen to her many stories of people she had worked with or knew. The production is nostalgic and will delight fans to listen to, with Dickinson really getting to grips with her character – but this formula can begin to feel a bit tired, particularly towards the end of the first act.
Yet the writing is sharp, despite the occasional tendency for self-indulgence in the narration at times, and there is plenty to smile about in this nostalgic piece of theatre that never forgets to make the audience feel involved with proceedings in the intimate surroundings of the Jermyn Street Theatre.
It maybe consistently sharp and funny throughout, but there are also some wonderful tender moments for each of the characters – particularly towards the end of the show that really capture the strength of the friendship between them as Ball dies.
If you love Lucille Ball and want to know more about the woman behind the character Lucy Ricardo then do not miss this fascinating and simple piece of theatre.
I Loved Lucy runs at the Jermyn Street Theatre until the 27th February. For more information and to book tickets visit: http://www.jermynstreettheatre.co.uk/show/i-loved-lucy/.