Living her last days during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the only world Eleanor Roosevelt has known was one on the brink. She'll never know that she played own part in tipping the scales.
The New Theatre
My review of Mrs Roosevelt Flies to London by Alison Skilbeck coming up just as soon as my mouth and my teeth have no future ...
Granted special permission to use Eleanor Roosevelt's writings, Alison Skilbeck's dramatic monologue begins with the First Lady in declining health during the Cuban Missile Crisis. She begins to relive her journey to wartime London in 1942 to speak to the US soldiers. Having lived through two World Wars and her own share of private battles, it seems that Roosevelt has only known a world that has been on the brink. She'll never know that she would play her own part in tipping the scales.
If the station of First Lady was traditionally that of a glorified hostess, Roosevelt shook up the role. She might have been Franklin's eyes and ears during her trip to London but her sensibilities had their own scope. The perfomance contains many revelations: as well as speaking to the US soldiers, she wanted to observe the British and how they were coping with the war. She wasn't afraid to lock horns with Churchill and his policies as an imperialist, nor would she slow down for the reporters, who would have preferred a quaint photo-op over a cup of tea. It was entrepreneurial for it's time; she was leading the First Lady towards something resembling a politician.
With soft and intelligent strokes, Skilbeck's portrait of Roosevelt is charming and elegant. Her performance - a well-measured possession of both gentleness and authority - convinces us of her dignitary. It is her voice though that strikes, inspiring as she addresses the soldiers, assuring us of Eleanor Roosevelt as a sweeping luminary. On the other side of the coin: an effective switch of the lighting and sound causes the stage to withdraw into her private life, and the memories of an unhappy childhood and later an unhappy marriage.
While certainly an insightful production, it never seems to crescendo. This may be because Skilbeck flies a bit too lowly for the evening's more traumatic episodes. Or, the monologue, which feels overly composed of individual diary entries, doesn't have the dramaturgical structure needed to create any real transformation.
What did everybody else think?