By CLAIRE DAWSON aka SiSi
Kettering Hall, Saturday 20 July 2013
Through heavy rain on a cold winters night locals gathered, wide-eyed, to fill the Kettering Hall to see Blitz - A Night in The Bunker by Claire Dawson aka SiSi. Such an enthusiastic turn out must be proof of Dawson’s singing and the reputation of her one-woman show, a story of heartache and optimism, based on her Liverpudlian grandmother’s life during WWII in London.
I bought a piece of “war cake and a cuppa tea” and nestled into the community hall-style-theatre turned “safe bunker”, to be absorbed in a rollicking tale of rags to riches (or so it seemed), then real love, which the uncertainty of war then separated.
Blitz is purely and simply about the power of song. And Dawson can certainly sing, not just with passion, enthusiasm and authenticity, but she also embodies the life force with which wartime era songs were written. One after another, over a dozen songs rolled out touching hearts and raising spirits.
War songs, along with musical theatre and show tunes were woven together with a simple story using a simple set, lighting and accompanying recorded music. Dawson’s connection with her audience, her clever and witty quips, comic timing and pizzazz match the energy of the songs to make this an all-round talented show. Dawson is funny and an incredibly generous performer. Her costumes included period wartime uniforms and tasteful sassy outfits. Her performance style is to ‘see, hear and feel’ her created world, so her audience can easily engage with the emotional journey.
While singing Someone To Watch Over Me, Dawson seemed to subtly break into another genre of music... was it a Queen song? I’m not sure, but it was enthralling..., and then just as artfully returned to the former tune. In the quieter and sadder songs, while Dawson certainly conveyed hardship and heartache, she could have let go of her ‘show-biz’ singing style even more to expose herself and be more vulnerable.
There was something heart warming about seeing a show with phenomenally high energy and low technology in a community hall. The energy comes from Dawson and her vigorous spirit to virtually single-handedly devise, write, direct, choreograph, design and perform Blitz. She has a loyal team of friends who support her with sound, lighting and Front of House including Ian Clare, Dennis Clare, MC Naomi Edwards, Guy Roberts, and Cameron Bridge.
Resonant and appreciative moans and rumbles could be heard in the audience at the end of songs. In the final number, We’ll Meet Again, one of the most famous songs of the Second World War era, the audience were encouraged to sing along. The elderly couple sitting next to me, hand in hand, sang along with their eyes closed and there was even a tear rolling down a cheek.
Blitz toured Tasmania in 2012 and this 2013 version, commissioned by The Festival of Voices, is set to tour nationally next year.