Studio at New Wimbledon Theatre London is an intimate and dark settling. It houses 66 seats, so you can say without hyperbole, that any seat in the house is a winner. I took my place and settled down for the Autumn Premieres Season, starting off with Ewen Moore's (writer) and Elizabeth Husskinson (director) The Battersea Bardot (Anne Rabbitt in the titular role) who exudes empathy and sympathy in equal measure.
White, already established and feted as a fierce contender in the acting world, having cemented herself in Ken Loach's Cathy Come Home, along with a plethora of films under belt, both as an adult and as a child star, in the television version of Up the Junction. This leading actress - indeed, she was working alongside the greats, Oliver Reed and Orson Welles, to name just a couple, had firmly made her name a household favourite.
However, what must goes up, indeed comes down and in 1968 after a stint in Hollywood, mixing with the rich and famous, affairs with Sinatra and Burton led her into the not so bright lights big city of Hollywood - the drugs and alcohol abuse took their toll, one too many bad reviews for bad movies, her once shining career sharply took a nosedive and she returned back to London in 1982 to take front and centre stage as Josie in Turkish Baths.
She received a warm welcome with good reviews, but one too many late nights meant one too many no-shows and she was dismissed from her job. Returning to Florida, tragedy hit and, by her own hand, she died, (although this is disputed, some stating liver disease to be the cause) aged just 48 and survived by two sons.
Moore has shown care and consideration in producing Battersea Bardot. It's New Year's Eve and everything is heightened, reflective, sad and happy, but the ghosts of decades past come to visit and it's here where the beauty of this piece is, the nuances and the alluding to what could have, should have or might have, been. The set is shrouded in intimacy and Emily Munt as Set and Costume Designer has outshone herself in finding clothes to match the tone of the moment and capture the Swinging Sixties. A one-woman show with plenty of light and darkness, figuratively and literally with applause aplenty for Alex Forey and musical director Gabrielle Ball, there is only one thing to dislike - the run isn't long enough!
It runs until 23 September.
Review: Kay Johal