A total of 53 characters gasp, mumble, jump and cavort their way through this new play about Carry On actor Charles Hawtrey. However, only one actress is on stage; an impressive feat achieved by Amanda Lawrence from theatre company Told-By-An-Idiot.
Driven by her energy, verve and wit, this production details the life of the deceased actor whose troubled life and irascible personality was only exacerbated by the Carry On films he performed in.Hawtrey’s life isn’t the most interesting to choose to create an entire production around, however Lawrence’s performance is fantastic to watch; both hilarious and saddening at the same time.
Jiggery Pokery takes Hawtrey’s life from early beginnings living with his mother and the chip on his shoulder about his ‘toilet cleaner’ father through to his untimely demise in 1988. He adopts the name of his acting mentor; an eccentric producer who opens the world of performance to the young Hawtrey. When Bernie, the Chairman of the Carry On Appreciation Society, knocks on Hawtrey’s door we realise the extent of his hatred towards the outside world and the amount of unwanted bother he received from his Carry On fans. His sad and pathetic death is wonderfully portrayed by Lawrence who jerks and jolts in the hospital bed, dying slowly from gangrene as a result of smoking incessantly throughout his life.
Lawrence portrays a man lost and angry, someone hit by the lure of the bottle early on in life, drinking gin in the morning and getting so wasted no cabbies want to pick him up. Clothes, toilet rolls, gin and whiskey bottles seemingly littered around the stage are actually perfectly and specifically placed so that Lawrence can transform at precisely the right moment into any character she needs to.
Having recently seen the success of Morecambe in Edinburgh this year, it seems this type of ‘bio-play’ holds infinite possibilities in how to represent an individual character and Lawrence’s performance certainly portrays the reality of being a star truthfully and beautifully.
Catch Jiggery Pokery at the Battersea Arts Centre – until 19h December