The Girl I left Behind Me sees Jessica Walker take the audience through a history of female drag acts (women appearing in trousers as men) from the Victorian Music Halls, the bright lights of Broadway to the seaside town of Morecambe.
Dressed in a dickie bow and tails with fantastic ruby red lips, fabulous check bones and a short yet exceptionally feminine hair style; Walker uses minimal props; mainly hats to bring to life some of this less well known musical genre’s greatest stars such as Vesta Tilley, Ella Shields, Ella Wesner and Annie Hindle. Performed through a mixture of lecture style speeches about the life and times of each star the stories are supported by some of their most famous songs and performances. Walker is continually supported through out by the beautiful piano - courtesy of James Holmes.
The audience are informed of some of the details of these ladies’ private lives but this piece is not really an examination of lesbianism in this genre but rather of the effect of the public’s perception of these ladies and how the decisions made in their private lives could affect their popularity and the progressions of their careers.
Notable in the story of Annie Hindle who married her dresser; a woman. Hindle signed the register as a man and this the death of her career as her fan base were no longer trusted that she was in fact a woman and did not take kindly to reality affecting the fiction she portrayed on stage and they lost faith in her act.
Largely singing unamplified, mezzo-soprano Walker shows the quality of productions staged by Opera North and the piano support of Holmes in itself an absolute pleasure to behold. Even if the subject matter is not to your taste these two create a delightful atmosphere and really bring this genre to life.
The Girl I Left Behind Me is an interesting show, beautifully performed and perfectly directed by Neil Bartlett.
- Ruth Lovett