Kate Dimbleby: I’m a Woman, at the New End, NW3
A decade has gone by since the singer Kate Dimbleby caused a stir in an intelligent monologue cum floor show about the life of Peggy Lee. Since then motherhood has intervened, although there’s nothing remotely mumsy about her exhilarating new entertainment, a cocktail of blues, jazz, country, singer-songwriter pop and the sort of earthy, post-feminist humour that makes the Desperate Housewives look like members of the Salvation Army. In the wrong hands, it could easily turn into garish pastiche and parody. But Dimbleby is an assured and charismatic vocalist who can make the leap from a full-decibel tribute to Bessie Smith to an intimate confessional from the Dory Previn songbook.
The keyboard player Naadia Sheriff leads a charmingly laid-back group in which guitarist Chris Allard covers the waterfront while Sophie Alloway, on drums — who looks too demure to wield a stick — keeps everyone in line with minimal effort. Dimbleby — daughter of David and Josceline Dimbleby — adds some autobiographical snippets to the narrative as she explains how a terribly English public schoolgirl survived a wayward youth. Marriage may have brought a measure of domestic contentment yet the Rubens-esque performer still has a lust for life: men sitting within flirting distance of the stage may find themselves becoming props for a moment or two. Trust me, it is a pleasurable experience.
Cal McCrystal directs with the lightest of touches, and the lantern lecture display of photos of the singer’s role models, from Nina Simone to Dolly Parton, conceals some neatly judged in-jokes. A homage to Sophie Tucker — “last of the red-hot mommas” — gives Dimbleby a chance to vamp things up. Yet she also has the courage to tackle I Will Wait for You, the classic ballad from Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, in the original French.
Her own composition, Hold On, is a supremely confident sketch of the pressures and joys of home life. Mischievous as ever, she encourages her double-bass player Jonty Fisher to switch to ukulele on the duet, Tonight You Belong to Me: echoes of Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters keeping a straight face as they serenade each other in that cult film The Jerk.
Box office: 0870 0332733.
Kate Dimbleby: I’m a Woman runs until October 3