at Warwick Arts Centre, Thursday 10th March 2011
One of the best things that can happen for a writer is surely to find a real life story which can be adapted to a stage play. It must be even better when you are able to speak to those involved. It must certainly be a godsend for Caroline Horton, then, that her own grandmother had her own extraordinary story, which became the basis for You’re Not Like The Other Girls Chrissy, a beautifully touching tale of how one woman struggled on during the Second World War away from her fiancée.
The piece begins with Horton entering the stage, gabbling in French with four suitcases in hand. She notices us, makes a few jokes about English and queueing and we’re hooked. She begins her fascinating story, telling us what brings her to the Gard du Nord on this day in January 1945. It is a story of love and loss and is all the more poignant considering these events bought the extraordinarily Caroline Horton into being. Some of the most moving moments are seen at the end of the show as we see images of Horton and Chrissy together, including voice-overs from our hero herself. This is a story that lives in the heart of the writer.
Horton’s script, although based in real interviews and a true story, is almost poetic in its telling. She claims she “never exaggerates”, but we know a lot of what is told is embellishment, as happens with all story-telling. The text is carefully nuanced, as the narrator gets her idioms mixed up, expressing how she felt like “the knees of the bees” and “a hot cat on a roof”. There are a few jokes for the history buffs in the audience and a basic understanding if French is required to understand some lines, but this simply adds to the reward when we work out what is being said.
The four suitcases and handbag act as the only set, each containing within them intricately constructed miniatures and objects from Chrissy’s life in order to aid our understanding. Inside one is hidden a charming 3D pop up of Paris which lights up to display the city at night. Touches like this serve to make the show even more touching and we see briefly inside the head of Chrissy; how she sees the world during the war is far different from how the media has portrayed it to us.
Although You’re Not Like The Other Girls Chrissy is directed by Omar Elerian and Daniel Goldman, the show is undoubtedly Horton’s. She takes us on a journey and displays an alluring erratic tendency which it is hard to divert our attention from. Her cheeky smile, glowing eyes and eccentric energy make the character unbelievably human. One wonders whether this performance would be as effective without the family links, and although it wouldn’t be quite as moving, it would still nonetheless be a superb piece of theatre.