Adelaide Fringe

Fringe Review: Coral Browne: This F***ing Lady!

Coral Edith Browne (1913 – 1991), was brought up in Footscray and died in a movie-star’s home in Los Angeles.

Presented by Prospect Productions
Reviewed 23rd February 2017

The Teutonic splendour of the Clubroom in the German Club has been transformed into a friendly theatre space with the addition of scaffolding, black curtains, speaker stacks and a minimal lighting rig. In this space tonight we spent an hour remembering – and loving –  Coral Edith Browne (1913 – 1991), who was born and brought up in Footscray and died in a movie-star’s home in Los Angeles. It is odd that more Australians don’t know about her. It won’t be long before they do. Maureen Sherlock’s deft play-script, in the hands of Genevieve Mooy, brings Coral Browne to flamboyant life.

Coral Browne was adventurous, outrageous, sexually eclectic, open-hearted and potty-mouthed. She befriended celebrities and fellow-actors, both in British theatre and in the world of film.  As the show starts, Browne is being presented with a BAFTA award for Best British Actress in 1984.  She accepts the statuette, and her acceptance speech flows into a stream of anecdotes, reminiscences, jokes, insinuations and yarns. It’s wise, funny, disarmingly honest and immensely entertaining. The language is rich and splendidly Anglo-Saxon. It feels as if we are having an intimate chat with a master-raconteur. Although names of the famous are dropped willy-nilly, it never feels like Spot-the-Celeb. Coral’s pragmatic, self-deprecating style never lets it get anything less than sparklingly funny.

Maureen Sherlock has written a one-woman tour-de-force for Mooy, whose fine acting skills are evident throughout. She is physically and vocally perfect as a nervous 12-year-old, doing her elocution performance at the Ballarat Eisteddfod; she is equally spot-on when, with the addition of a ratty fur stole and dreadful toque, she becomes Coral’s 99-year-old miserable malcontent of a mother. Mooy does the whole show in a well-cut sparkly jacket, a double row of pearls, neat black pants, and exquisitely styled pale grey hair. Hats are added when needed for extra characters. It’s an old device, but Sherlock and Mooy ensure that it serves the story as unobtrusively as possible.

On the back wall of the stage, a TV monitor sits, looking much like a painting on the wall of a living room until it begins to show playbills, photos, footage and captions appropriate to the part of Browne’s life story that Genevieve Mooy is recounting. The scholarship behind the writing of this piece is remarkable.  PhD’s have been awarded for less research. While acknowledging the excellence of the research and the graceful style of the writing, the mainstay of this production is its immense entertainment value.  See this, honour original Australian theatre writing and performance, and raise a glass to Coral Browne, a great f***ing lady.

Reviewed by Pat. H. Wilson

Rating out of 5:  5

Venue:  Clubrooms at the GC – The German Club
Season:  22nd – 25th February, 1st – 4th March, 8th – 11th March, 15th – 18th March 2017
Duration:  60 minutes
Tickets:  $20.00 to $26.00


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