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Coral Browne – This F***ing Lady! review at King’s Head, London – ‘enthusiastic but under-rehearsed performance’

Amanda Muggleton. Photo: Prospect Productions Amanda Muggleton. Photo: Prospect Productions
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The actor Coral Browne moved to London from Australia in 1936 with a string of classical leading-lady credits to her name and £50 in her purse. A buoyant self-promoter, she worked hard to assimilate herself into snooty West End society. Before long, she became a popular leading lady at the Savoy before appearing in several movies including Auntie Mame, The Killing of Sister George and Theatre of Blood, where she met her second husband Vincent Price.

Maureen Sherlock’s one-woman play introduces Browne as she packs up swathes of memorabilia ready to be shipped off to a Melbourne archive. It’s a familiar, predictable device that is saved purely by tales from Browne’s exceptionally colourful career and personal life. She had a healthy attitude to sex, which led to affairs with several leading men and women of the day.

Sherlock includes lots of career-defining highlights and celebrates Browne’s entrepreneurial spirit, but there’s no real meat to the bones. Conflict with her hyper-critical mother looms over much of Browne’s career ominously, but any relationship with her father is barely acknowledged. Before long it feels more like a series of entertaining anecdotes than a structured drama.

Australian actor Amanda Muggleton bears no real physical resemblance to Browne but manages to capture the carefree attitude and delivers the f-bomb with seasoned precision. It’s an enthusiastic but under-rehearsed performance, with the actor taking many prompts along the way. It’s not ideal, but at least Muggleton has the ability to deftly pass them off gaily as an interaction with her understudy.

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Undemanding and under-rehearsed biopic of one Australia’s finest theatrical exports