Written by: Bea Lee-Smith
Directed by: Hilary Norris
BATS Theatre, 15th Sep 2022
Reviewed by: Tanya Piejus
Upper Hutt in the 1980s is the newfound home of Cecily, a recent divorcee from a cheating husband in London and star of this joyous production in the TAHI New Zealand Festival of Solo Performance. Writer Bea Lee-Smith gives a powerhouse performance not only as the adorable Cecily but also as a host of other colourful characters that Cecily meets as she casts off on her own.
Arriving at local pub The Embers, where white wine from a box is the height of sophistication, Cecily meets an eclectic group of women intent on fulfilling their dreams. One wants to travel, another to publish a children’s book, and a third to open her own Italian restaurant. With their encouragement, Cecily joins a watercolour class to rekindle her childhood love of art and from there enters the bright and exciting world of style consultancy with Colour Me Beautiful.
Lee-Smith has performed Colour Me Cecily before and it shows. Constantly switching posture and accent with ease, Lee-Smith takes us on a journey of discovery while always letting us know where we are and who we’re with. Just a small table and its crocheted tablecloth, a chair, a handbag, and four coloured scarves representing the seasons keep her company. The rest is left to our imaginations.
This minimalism is an excellent choice as it allows Lee-Smith’s impressive performance skills to shine. With Hilary Norris’ careful direction and some choice snatches of 80s pop (Golden Brown and White Wedding included), the world of the Hutt in the decade that taste forgot is successfully conjured up, even for those who have never experienced the joy of snacking on Cheds and reduced cream and onion dip while sipping cask wine and ‘having your colours done’.
A delight from beginning to end, Colour Me Cecily is a warm, humorous, and touching tale of personal empowerment at a time when even educated women still had little to look forward to apart from wifely duties and motherhood.