Dusty Won’t Play

Oran Mor, Glasgow

Mary Brennan

four stars

SO, what do you think of when you hear the name, Dusty Springfield? A 60’s pop icon, with a a lusciously smoky voice? A “white” soul singer with seriously sooty eye make-up ? Dusty’s look was as distinctive as her sound – and at her peak, she seemed to epitomise the “swinging sixties.” But how about Dusty Springfield, political activist? Turn up to this enjoyable first offering in the new season of A Play, a Pie and a Pint and you’ll discover an episode in Dusty’s career that few other performers of the time chose to emulate.

It’s December, 1964. Dusty is about to tour South Africa, and, being aware of the situation there, has stipulated a “No Apartheid” clause in her contract. As Annie Caulfield’s fast-moving script reveals, however, Dusty and her team encountered various bully-boys on their arrival: men in suits whose threats were far from idle. Mandela had recently been sent to Robben Island, and the aura of a police state certainly hangs over the action here, as does a sense that Dusty was maybe as naive as she was determined in her objectives. Back in the UK, she also came under attack, accused of meddling by some and publicity-seeking by others. She never wavered, not in public anyway.

There’s a handsome assortment of Dusty’s hits in the production, with Frances Thorburn delivering the familiar songs – with deliciously spot-on flicks of the wrist – in the spirit of a proper tribute to Dusty and her beliefs rather than a mere tribute band. Backed by Simon Donaldson and Kevin Lannon, who switch deftly from chipper support team to threatening heavies, Thorburn delivers the Dusty that the late Annie Caulfield (1959 - 2016) always felt was “cool and interesting.” Marilyn Imrie’s direction is like a loving hug to both ladies.

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