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Review: Coral Browne: This F**king Lady at the Brunswick Ballroom

Review by Andrea James Lui

The show opens on the 1984 BAFTAs with Coral Browne going head to head against the likes of Judi Dench & Maggie Smith for best actress, followed by a self-deprecating joke about how no one’s ever heard of the Aussie actress. I was relieved by that acknowledgment and glad to be getting a thorough introduction to this saucy and exciting woman. The biographical show traces her life through the nostalgia of storage boxes in her basement, starting with her childhood - this section was wrought with Melbournian humour about growing up in Footscray, which was well received by the locals in the audience. Recounting Coral Browne’s many romantic and sexual adventures with various actors & directors, also yielded some guttural moans from the audience, who recognized the famous names from their bygone era. For my part, I was only familiar with Cecil B. DeMille & Vincent Price, but the narrative was helped along with coordinated video projections & audio cues for reference.

Despite the fact that many of the references went over my head, Amanda Muggleton was wildly entertaining as Coral Browne and I couldn’t help but wish that all history lessons were taught with this level of connection and engagement. There is great value in remembering and honouring brave & inspirational women like Coral Browne: the Aussie actress who made it big in the UK, who’s sexual liberation defied cultural traditions - to explore not just the factual events of her life, but her point of view on being repeatedly typecast as a scarlet harlot whore, playing characters wildly outside her age range, and maintaining her true Aussie demeanour for shock value in posh UK society.

I happened to be sat in the audience with a woman who first met Amanda Muggleton after watching her perform 20 years ago. She said that Amanda Muggleton is one of those rare actors who is happy to chat to the audience after a show. That generosity was present in her performance. A highlight of This F**king Lady was Amanda Muggleton’s occasional ad libs - interacting with a few front row audience members, acknowledging a strange lighting change, calling out a cell phone ringing - she is connected, present in the moment, and joyful to watch. I have no doubt that the show will continue to grow stronger throughout it’s run as the cues tighten and the dialogue flows more smoothly. It’s an entertaining tribute to a very cool woman.

Image Credit: David Parker


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