Under the stone proscenium arch in the small theatre that is the Vaults and with only 3 wooden cubes as props, writer Christy Hall and her husband, American film and television actor, Matt Lutz perform her new play, Yours, Isabel. It is inspired by letters written during the 1940s, and gives one woman’s perspective of WW2 while her soldier husband is overseas.
Isabel McMeniman, a small town American of Irish Catholic stock, is a gorgeous Judy Garland/Dorothy look- alike and is beautifully dressed like a doll as she writes to her handsome GI boyfriend, Nick D’Angelo, an Italian protestant (?) whose immigrant family belong to the same small town and have gone from ‘twit’ and ‘tart’ to twosome.
The theatre lighting and the whole style of the show felt like being in an old movie when America was exotic, stylish and glamorous as it elegantly captures the mores of the period.
We learn through the letters narrated by the two actors that she is a fresh, young American girl who has dreamt the American Dream of getting married, having babies, baking pies and keeping house and he a decent, loyal and conventional guy who has tried to lift himself out of poverty through education.
The war gives Isabel, like many women at the time, the chance to work and experience challenges and independence. She finds herself remembering strong female role models and with her husband now abroad, has virtual independence to pursue her drive and finds a freedom she didn’t know she craved. She creates a fabulous symbolic muscle-flexing stance reminiscent of a WW2 women at work poster.
This is a thoroughly enthralling, entertaining and emotional piece of theatre, full of great dancing in between the epistolary scenes. Matt Lutz has the capacity to morph from a slim smart soldier, to an ageing trembling-handed priest, to Chuck, a bonehead GI, and a hard-faced factory owner with ease and without the aid of costume change, just his own talent.
The show creates its own magic while getting over a serous message about gender roles and expectations though I have to wonder where Nick had been posted in Italy when he writes that he misses coffee! That aside, it as a real jewel of a show.
Til 29 August (not 22), 16:30
Ticket price: £5