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Part of a loose trilogy on the underbelly of fame, Judy Upton's To Blusher With Love is better than her recent People on the River, which debuted at the Finborough Theatre. Although it retains the artificial feel of that play, her new work is more focussed and definitely more involving. Splicing a police interrogation of Troy's teenage girlfriend, Abbie, with flashbacks of her last hours in the singer's company, this fast-paced three-hander spins out the mystery to suspenseful effect.
In Troy, Upton has created an interesting, unconventional rock star. Played with commendable ordinariness by Steven Madison, he's an awkward, introverted poet who shuns the traditional outlandish antics of his profession and frets about playing the same old songs. (His busy schedule allows him no time to write new material.)
Troy even questions his right to be a role model: he feels guilty about parting his fans from their pocket money and having such influence over their lives when he has no idea what to do with his own. His chief beef, though, is that he became a musician as a means to achieve freedom. Yet by becoming an almost menial employee of his record company, he has found the very drudgery that he hoped to avoid.
Of the other roles, Penelope Freeman has the cushiest job as Detective Inspector Hannon. All anyone expects of a cop, after all, is to look hard and say lines with a straight face. Debbie Eden, though, has her work cut out as Abbie, who is both the most important and least persuasive character in the play.
Making a mouthy, thick but streetwise teenager interesting for 90 minutes isn't easy - especially when the character is also charged with representing Troy's entire fan base and virtually narrating the story as she goes along.
By giving so much work to one character, when she could have introduced a couple of others to share the load, Upton has needlessly sacrificed realistic characterisation for economy. While Abbie is only patchily convincing, however, Eden works overtime to carry a play which, with a lesser actress in the role, could easily have fallen apart.
Overall, Judy Upton's work is getting better all the time. To Blusher With Love is well worth seeing, then - but it has yet to fully flower.
Douglas McPherson - What's On 17/9/97
Building on her reputation for catching the tenor of the times, Judy Upton's latest play is about hero worship, the price of fame, press intrusion and even, just for good measure, police corruption. Her first play, 'Ashes and Sand', about teenage girl gangs, opened the week after one of them mugged Liz Hurley in 1994, and it won Upton the George Devine Award. 'To Blusher with Love' covers similar ground (disaffected youth culture in the south cast) but the breadth of its scope dissipates the effect of some razor-keen writing.
Troy (Steven Madison) is the moody lead vocal of Britpop indie-band sensation Blusher. Abbie (Debbie Eden) is his adoring 15-year-old girlfriend and fan. Initially, we share her anxiety to know what's going on as she's interrogated by DI Hannon (Penelope Freeman). "You're a habitual absconder [from care]," says the Inspector: "Yeah, it's important to travel," replies Abbie. Gradually, though, through intercut scenes of their one-sided affair, it transpires that it's Troy who's disappeared, under suspicious circumstances, fleeing a reporter investigating an acid casualty and ex-lover of the singer.
There's tremendous pace to Upton's unfolding of a story as melodramatic, salacious and unlikely as any news editor could wish.
Charles Godfrey-Faussett - Time Out: Sept 17-24 1997
[Everlasting Rose] [Ashes and Sand] [Temple] [The Shorewatchers' House] [Bruises] [Stealing Souls]
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[The Ballad of a Thin Man] [Sliding with Suzanne]
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