It’s a busy month in Manchester – not only do have The Greater Manchester Fringe popping up at various venues, but we also have the tenth batch of plays from 24:7 Theatre Festival. Always championing new and existing talent, the 24:7 festival’s offerings have always been diverse tackling a variety of topics and methods of performing over the years – but this year brings a first even for them: a musical.
The Lives and Loves of Vera Dymond tells the story of a former club singer coming back onto the circuit after a long absence. Vera Dymond (Melissa Sinden) is back, albeit jaded, and heading for the big time – accompanied by the tone-deaf Renee (Kimberley Hart-Simpson) and bolshie Caitlin (Laura Mold) as her ‘Dymontees’. But Vera is haunted by her past as memories of her abusive former manager Billy begin to repeat themselves with the actions of her current one, Vic (Adrian Palmer).
Jayne Marshall’s script is packed with witty one-liners and tinged with hope and regret. It tries to deal with some harsh and unforgiving issues – the nature of fame, hero worship, how those in a position of power can trample on others, although it would be nice to see this developed a little bit more. Tom Byrne’s original music is effective, and adds another layer to the play, especially with the vocal talents of the cast.
Melissa Sinden is perfect as Vera, contrasting her embittered outlook on where her life has spiralled down to, against her youthful optimism. When she sees history repeating itself as Vic abuses her backing singers, just as she was abused in her youth, Vera turns mother hen and this leads to some touching scenes as she tries to coax Renne out of her shell.
Elsewhere, there’s good support from a confident Laura Mould, a viciously addictive Pat Lally, and a frightenely entertaining Adrian Palmer. Kimberley Hart-Simpson threatens to steal the show though with a comic turn as the ditzy and likeable Renne. Chris Salt’s direction is effective, with the three microphone props lingering as a reminder as what once was, or what could be, for our trio of starlets.
It might be a frequently trod story, but The Lives and Loves of Vera Dymond is a highly enjoyable way to spend an hour with its live musical accompaniment, a witty script, and a highly competent cast that makes it a rather unique offering in this year’s 24:7 festival.
The Fiction Stroker gives The Lives and Loves of Vera Dymond four strokes out of five:
The Lives and Loves of Vera Dymond is part of 24:7 and runs until 25 July at New Century House, Manchester.