Jenny Eclair: The Andy Warhol Syndrome

Note: This review is from 2004

Review by Steve Bennett

Jenny Eclair's new one-woman show is a witty, pointed play about the irresistible lure of fame, and its destructive fickleness.

She plays Carol Fletcher, 'her off the telly', a 44-year-old grandmother who got her 15 minutes thanks to a docusoap set in the market of her dreary Yorkshire hometown of Dewsbury. Once the viewing public warmed to her brassy, larger-than-life character she was catapulted into the showbusiness world she had yearned to join since a youngster.

In evocative monologue, she recalls how that dream was sparked by a childhood encounter with variety star Renee Margeritte, whose smoky glamour suggested a Technicolor life beyond her drab existence.

Fletcher's fame never lasted. Today she's working in a care home, reminiscing about the glory days on the C-list, shopping with Lorraine Kelly and appearing with Richard and Judy, as she mulls an offer that could propel her back into the cruel spotlight.

Along with the introspective look at her own past, she shares intimate gossip about the friends and family she left behind to pursue her momentary fame. She was never there in their moments of need, and when her own peccadilloes are splashed over the tabloids, the loneliness and shallowness of her existence comes crashing home. The dreams are ultimately crushed when she learns more about her childhood icon.

Fletcher bears only some similarity to Eclair's stand-up character. She's not so confident, sexually aggressive or outlandish ­ or at least in not in this behind-the-scenes incarnation, which instead exposes the vulnerabilities behind such bold celebrity.

The script, co-written with her long-time collaborator Julie Balloo, is engrossing if unambitious, and is peppered with wit before the tragedy kicks in. Several comedy names, from Ronni Ancona to Lee Mack, have provided voiceovers that make the unseen supporting characters real.

Eclair, too, is an absorbing performer, bringing humour, pathos, desperation and disillusionment to the role she created. It all works to create an entertaining hour's theatre, showing that for Eclair at least, there is life after stand-up.

Review date: 1 Jan 2004
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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