Dametastick!! is a backstage musical that tells the story of two bitter rivals – Philomena Smith and Andromeda Dench, both theatrical Dames Commanders of the Order of the British Empire of a certain age.
Both have fallen on hard times.
Although once the toast of the West End theatre, tastes have sadly changed.
It hasn’t helped her career that Dame Andromeda has had a pacemaker fitted, is subject to occasional bouts of narcolepsy and is intensely forgetful. But this means that everything is new to her and the world is a source of constant wonder.
Dame Philomena is hampered by a “thing” about hygiene and is constantly washing her hands. She will not use any toilet other than her own. She is often compared to Sarah Bernhardt, but mostly because of her wooden leg, the result of (a) gout and (b) losing the original prosthetic leg provided by the NHS. This was lost overboard during a fracas which ensued after she was discovered shoplifting three bottles of Gordon’s in the shop on the Isle of Wight ferry.
The work dried up years ago, along with their complexions. But these two Dames are indomitable and with tubs of Nivea cream never far from hand both have arrived for an audition at a down-at-heel pub theatre which has aspirations to become an opera house and is inconveniently located as far apart from two tube stations as it is possible to be.
Incredibly, it turns out that these already-bitter arch-rivals are here to audition for the same role!
But the coincidences don’t stop there The director turns out to be none other than 1970s TV conjurer David Dixon with whom both ladies were amorously involved in the past. It soon becomes clear that Mr Dixon’s wand hasn’t lost its magic. But whose charms will win her the role. And which lady will vanish?
Intrigue and hilarity ensue.
We particularly enjoyed the glimpses into the musical within the musical – THE GRAPES OF FROTH although the faux operetta number featuring large numbers of peasants treading the grapes quickly became tiresome. Maybe it was all the yodeling.
But this was far outweighed by the show’s delights:
The actress playing Dame Andromeda did an astonishing impersonation (we won’t spoil it by saying of whom)
The scene in which (for reasons still unclear) the entire cast is called upon to sing and tap dance while eating Cream Crackers.
The drinking song
Dame Andromeda delivers a moving, wistful paean to her early rural days: “Worcestershire, The Source Of Me”.
And there is hauntingly moving song by Dame Philomena when she fears she will never tread the boards again (“Park Benches And Balloons”).And of course there is the astonishing final coup-de-theatre – now so famous that there is no need to mention it here.
One strange thing: there was one interval but it was only one minute long so the cast and the audience sat in complete silence staring at each other uncomfortably until the allotted 60 seconds had elapsed.
It was interesting to see how many people took the opportunity to walk out.