The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue.
Dorothy Parker, queen of the throwaway line, the acid rejoinder. Toast of the Algonquin. Writer, poet, lover… And, as I found out on Wednesday, also social activist. Who knew?
Dorothy takes a Trip is a one woman show created for Dartington International Summer School 2016 by director Richard Williams, in collaboration with singer, actor and all-round stage animal Sarah Gabriel.
Sorry. Correction. It’s not a one woman show. It’s a three-hander, but one of the characters plays the piano, and one doesn’t speak. Gabriel’s role is as a lawyer who is looking after Parker’s estate, including the disposal of her ashes, which are in an urn in the filing cabinet (presumably filed under P). Through a conversation between the lawyer and the ashes, we learn how Parker was so much more than throwaway lines.
Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone.
If that sounds morbid and slightly weird then, good. Because, listening to Parker’s brittle poetry, you realise that morbid and slightly weird is entirely in the spirit of this brilliant mind. Gabriel has a fabulous line in dead-pan Dorothy delivery — you can just imagine the louche langour of the bright young things in 1920s New York. The music puts you there too — a deft choice of songs ranging from Noel Coward to Milton Babbitt, sung with impeccable diction and a lovely sense of period. (Veronica Shute, at the piano, is a sensitive accompanist in a difficult acoustic).
I can’t tell you the final gag, but it’s worth waiting for. I hope Gabriel and Shute get to perform this again, further afield.