Review : Testament of Yootha, Caroline Burns Cooke

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

If, like me, you don’t really know about Yootha Joyce, then you are in for a treat.

Caroline Burns Cooke brings her whole story, from her birth on Wandsworth common, through Yootha’s fantastic theatrical and sitcom career (and all the personal stuff alongside) to her death and alcoholism at age 53. You do not need to know Yootha to enjoy this intriguing, hilarious character, with a hint of nostalgia and glamour.

Cooke performs as Yootha, and many other character’s through this woman’s life, in what feels like one in take of air. She changes in physical form, from Yootha to an agent, a past husband, all with hilarious quips, foul language and the odd song. It is no argument that she shows what real glamour this woman was.

Cooke is very good at engaging with us – this may be a one woman show, but hell does she keep it this way. She flirts with the audience, agrees with them, ad libs and jumps in between us. She may be storytelling, but we are not just mere witnesses; we are part of the journey.

As engaging as she is, as I said, it does feel like one in-take of breath. Yes, there are emotional parts, that slow down the scene, taking you from laughing at a remark about grubby Clapham Grand, or ‘Crap-Ham Grand’ to the realisation of age and time wasted. But the rest is very fast paced, and at times you feel like you are playing catch up a little with where we are, who Cooke is at that present time and what is going on.

Now, as someone with little knowledge of Yootha Joyce, it could be that she in emulating her personality, and therefore this is very clever. But someone who may not know, it felt a little rushed through, and mostly I wanted Cooke to just take a breath in the room.

Testament of Yootha is a fun, engaging production and a great example of a one woman play – it just needed some time to settle in the room and therefore let us catch up with this woman’s dramatic tale.

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