One Kiss, Belgrade Theatre – Review

Arguably ‘an ode to womanhood’, One Kiss looks at the lives of three women, whose interwoven history has been shaped to some degree by the mores of society over the past 60+ years. A labour of love for actor/writer/songwriter Lara J. West, the show has evolved in recent years from its original concept of 5 Faces of Woman to its present format.

Accompanied on stage by Alicia Gardener-Trejo (sax/flute) and Piera Onacko (piano/keyboards), West’s show (which is directed by Sarah Stacey) is many ways a love letter to the women in Willy Russell’s shows (from Blood Brothers and Educating Rita to Shirley Valentine) – depicting working class women from Merseyside living in the second half of the 20th century.

The youngest of three siblings, 16-year-old Georgia has the closest of friendships with Sheryl. However, Georgia’s mother, Maud has misgivings about their ‘friendship’ for many different reasons and her actions during Georgia’s teen years sow the seeds of discord for years to come…

Playing both Maud and Georgia in the show, West conveys the motives, and the deepest fears and desires of mother and daughter – and if one doesn’t entirely agree with any character’s viewpoint, we certainly can understand how and why the way they are by the mores of the time. The show is also not afraid to touch on complications in pregnancy, and how women are often miscontrued and ‘alone’ in the aftermath of trauma.

Residing outside of ‘Old Blighty’, the character of Sheryl knew her own mind even before she emigrated to America. As an adult in New York , we see how she has fared relationship-wise without Georgia. Being a cabaret singer, Sheryl is able to use her singing and interaction with the audience as a form of catharsis (played with relish by West), voicing decades-worth of memories and emotions. Of the three women, Sheryl is perhaps the most ‘modern’ in her outlook, ahead of her time in terms of her sexuality and self-awareness about her identity.

It goes without saying that songs and musicianship of the performers onstage are commendable and a pleasure to listen to live. It is, however, in the backstories of the women that we get a sense of the universality of their problems, regardless of their specific circumstances. Certainly on the evening I attended, there were many chuckles from the audience, in recognition of the ‘observations’ made.

© Michael Davis 2022

One Kiss runs at the Belgrade Theatre from 7th-9th July.

One Kiss

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