Theatre review: Christine Keeler story at Richmond Theatre

10:29 23 September 2011

Alice Coulthard conveys Keeler

Alice Coulthard conveys Keeler's fragility

Touring Production

It is the early 1960s, the height of the Cold War, when everyone is paranoid about ‘reds under the bed’, writes Liz Colbert.

Along comes a scandal that has it all—Britain’s Minister for War John Profumo, call girl Christine Keeler, the unprincipled Dr Stephen Ward and, of course, the ubiquitous Soviet spy.

Shock degenerates into horror when Profumo admitts he has lied to the House of Commons about not having had an affair with Keeler.

Worse, the tendrils of corruption pollute the likes of Lord Astor, finish Profumo’s political career, drive Ward to suicide and take down Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and his government.

Such a sensational story is the stuff of a playwright’s dream.

But Gill Adams puts a twist on her play based on Christine Keeler’s own book, ‘The Truth At Last’.

The production at the Richmond Theatre until Saturday shimmers and titillates like the cabaret girls that tempt and tease in the Murray Club where our tale begins. It was here that Christine Keeler worked to keep the wolves from the door and where she met Ward who introduced her to Profumo.

Paul Nicholas plays Ward and also directs this touring production, providing the on-stage linchpin around which the characters revolve, as Christine hooks her men to the amusement and delight of the louche Ward.

This production is full of atmosphere, seamlessly flowing from sleazy nightclub to Ward’s iniquitous flat, then luxurious Cliveden in a moment.

With full frontal nudity, this show isn’t for the faint-hearted—but is not done in a gratuitous way.

This was the beginning of the Swinging Sixties where dope, drink and the Contraceptive pill provided the rocket fuel for a whole new way of living.

Paul Nicholas is excellent as Ward, sizzling with unabashed rakishness, obsessed with Keeler and pleased with his own place in a high society world where he procures to please.

Alice Coulthard also does a very fine job of conveying the fragility of Keeler who you can’t help but think was sinned against as much as sinning.

This is a gripping, absorbing and highly polished production.

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