Review | Waiting for Stanley

This review was originally written for This is Cabaret

Hands up who talks to themselves sometimes?  Makes up situations and stories in their heads?  One-woman play Waiting for Stanley meanders through fantasies like the best daydreams do. Mixing song, puppetry and animation, Leela Bunce (AKA clown burlesquer Audacity Chutzpah) tells a real-life wartime story filtered through the land of make-believe.

It’s 1945 and a lady with a bright red button nose waits at a train station for her man Stan to return from the front.  Surrounded by suitcases, and with time on her hands, we adventure off into her madcap mind as she fills the long minutes after the train arrives without him on it.  Just like most of us do – especially when thinking of long lost lovers – she makes up filmic scenarios of their reunion in her head.

As well as plenty of playful fantasy, we learn the story of her war through clowning that’s funny, silly and sad all at once.  Shy sometimes, and then wildly over-the-top, we see her as both a mother and a motorcycle dispatch rider. We meet a housewife empowered by the war and also a woman alone, her husband and son both sent away.

This isn’t cabaret of the usual kind – Leela Bunce’s one woman show is gentle and sweet, rather than bold and brash.  There is a sing-along though, some great toe-tapping wartime tunes and an opportunity to dance.  And there are hilarious tricks with a brilliant dough baby that morphs into Winston Churchill.

The mime and clowning is punctuated with puppetry and live animation, including a shadow Blitz scene projected onto a line of washing and a suitcase transformed into a steam train that puffs talcum powder.  Throughout, Leela’s luggage tricks are excellent.

Sadly, Waiting for Stanley played for one night only during the Postcards Festival at Jackson’s Lane Theatre, but you can see it at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August. Fans of Leela Bunce should also look out for 2012: an Olympic Vaudeville and the feminist cabaret shows of The Blue Stocking Society.

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