Sunday 1 December 2013

Keeler, Charing Cross Theatre

I don't think that many of my generation, myself included, really know who Christine Keeler is. Despite Lewis Morley's notes on the contact sheet above, the top left photograph taken in 1963 would become the defining image of her. The photographer's mark reads "Do not use - too much public exposure", but in fact, it was her exposure to the British public that made her.

Christine Keeler was a model and showgirl, living in London the early 1960s. She got to know osteopath Stephen Ward in her late teens, who introduced her to many of his high-powered friends, as he also did with her friend, Mandy Rice Davies. In 1963, she started an affair with Jack Profumo, Britain's Secretary of State for War.

When they were found out, and it was revealed that Keeler was also having a relationship with Russian spy Yevgeni Ivanov and drug dealer Johnny Edgecombe, not only was Profumo's career destroyed but Prime Minister Harold MacMillan was also forced to step down. Keeler's fame however, only increased. Still living, aged 71, Keeler is no longer a figure in the public eye, despite the drama and disruption caused at the time.

The Charing Cross Theatre is quiet and tucked away, underneath the arches at Charing Cross station. Their current play is Keeler, the story of the model's early life, based on her autobiography, The Truth At Last. The play stars Sarah Armstrong in the title role and Paul Nicholas (or Cousin Kevin, as I know him!) as Stephen Ward.

I thought the play was very good, and certainly taught me a lot about the event which I hadn't previously known. By the end, I didn't exactly feel sympathetic towards for any of the "characters"; the whole situation leaves you feeling a little cold towards everyone involved. For me, it was more telling of a time where political sex scandals and selling stories to papers just didn't happen. It’s sexy and stylish, despite being on a more amateur stage.

Sarah Armstrong made a good Christine Keeler, despite her costume and hairstyle making her look like Kate Middleton throughout! Very distracting. Paul Nicholas was also great in his role. He oozed charm, but with a creepy, darker side.

In five days time, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical "Stephen Ward" will be opening at the Aldwych Theatre. Although it’s bound to have more hype (and will LITERALLY be all singing, all dancing…), I’d still suggest going to see the Charing Cross production. Keeler will be running until 14th December.

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