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Coral Browne: This F***ing Lady at King's Head Theatre review

PUBLISHED: 14:47 22 May 2019

Amanda Muggleton in Prospect Production's of Coral Browne: This F***ing Lady.

Amanda Muggleton in Prospect Production's of Coral Browne: This F***ing Lady.

Archant

"Never make the mistake of taking acting too seriously." This was the advice that actress Coral Browne followed throughout her stage and screen career, from the moment she fled Australia in 1934 as a 20-year-old hopeful.

In writer/director Maureen Sherlock's rollicking one-woman this-is-your-life show This F***king Lady! a vivid portrait of the unapologetically lusty Ms Browne can't fail to charm.

The production is certainly raw and creaky. Not much effort has gone into the set - a backdrop of painted sky and a couple of tables, one displaying her 1984 TV BAFTA for An Englishman Abroad.

On press night, technical hitches with projections stalled the pace - photos flash up of her suburban parents and a string of glamorous lovers: Cecil Beaton, Maurice Chevalier, Vincent Price.

And Australian actress Amanda Muggleton fluffed her lines. But it didn't matter.

The script has the energy and zing of its inimitable subject and Muggleton's performance convincingly captures Browne's charisma and wit. No small achievement.

Virtually in residence at the Savoy Theatre in the 1940s, Browne specialized in playing fallen women.

She toured with the Old Vic in the 50s and gave a proto-feminist performance in Shaw's Mrs Warren's Profession, highlighting the injustice and social hypocrisy endured by sex workers.

In film, she caused a stir in a lesbian scene in The Killing of Sister George and stole the show in Auntie Mame before plunging into the world of horror courtesy of lover Vincent Prince.

There are a few quiet moments - for example, when she reflects on the death or her husband Philip Pearman - and then it's back to the bar-room bawdiness and anecdotes bursting with expletives.

It's no surprise to learn Browne was latterly best friends with Joan Rivers.

The nagging phone messages left by her critical, abandoned mother float through the ether and provide a counterpoint of bathos.

By the time Muggleton measures the shoulders of an audience member as a stand-in for the spy Burgess - who Browne met in Moscow and sent Saville Row suits to - we, like her innumerable conquests, are seduced.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

Continues until June 3. For more details and tickets, click here.

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