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Review: Making It at Royal Court Studio ****

Fame and fortune are fickle mistresses, and trying to make it in the world of entertainment certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted.

The hopes and dreams of generations of aspiring stars have been left tattered in the gutter outside a hundred social clubs, theatres, recording studios or on cutting room floors, while for others like Norma Desmond, all they can do is yearn for a return to the successes of yesteryear.

Stephen Fletcher and Catherine Rice’s Making It, currently doing deservedly brisk business at the Royal Court Studio, shines a spotlight on Rice’s popular recurring character Bev – a cabaret diva and would-be screen actress who we find here sitting backstage at the club where it all started, ruminating on her chequered career while she waits for the call that she’s convinced will finally change her stars.

Making It covers some of the same terrain as Jigsy, Tony Stavacre’s one-man play about a faded club comic which was brought movingly to life on the Royal Court stage by Les Dennis. But while there is a similar undercurrent of pathos which suffuses Bev’s story, she also feels like a sunnier and more optimistic, albeit naïve, character.

That naivety comes to the fore when would-be singing sensation Bev puts her faith and trust in a series of unworthy men who all have their own selfish angle, from her oily first manager - and subsequently boyfriend - Dougie who (one of many keen lines) looks “like Brian May – but in a short sort of way”, to a creepy photographer to a big-time agent who advises her to do anything for a part.

This swirling cast of chancers are brought slyly and entertainingly to life by Andrew Schofield, sporting a series of ropey wigs and opaque intentions.

Above and top: Catherine Rice and Andrew Schofield

In fact, the only characters who seem to have Bev’s real interest at heart are her supportive cabbie dad and Harry (also both played by Schofield), the owner of the local club where she gets her first break singing at a birthday party – and where she has returned, 20 years later, to perform sandwiched between a North East tribute band called Bon Geordie and the regular meat raffle.

Bev’s perpetual optimism and willingness to do almost anything to further her career leads to minor moments of triumph. But even then, there is often a sting in the tail.

The Royal Court Studio is a good physical fit for the story itself, and Rice and Schofield (who has created additional material for the show) are delightful, engaging storytellers who hold the audience throughout the two-hour running time.

Unlike The Entertainer’s Archie Rice, Catherine Rice’s Bev is both likeable and vulnerable, and unless you are stony of heart, you’ll find yourself rooting for her and the happy ending she deserves.


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