Thursday, January 9, 2014

A small room inside a bay window. A single bed, a table and chair, and a sink. I could manage something larger, with more conveniences, but I could never match the view.

Every now and then I am asked to write something that has me reaching for a collection of writings by theatre critic Kenneth Tynan, a Penguin paperback called Tynan on Theatre (1964), from which I read a couple of reviews before flipping to the back for his "Portraits".

One such portrait is an 8,000 word tour de force word-picture of a Toronto-born performance artist (though that title did not exist then) who was known throughout the Western world as Lady Peel (1894-1989), but who started life as Beatrice Gladys Lillie.

Here is how Christopher Stevens describes Beatrice Lillie in his book on Kenneth Williams:

Lillie's great talents were the arched eyebrow, the curled lip, the fluttering eyelid, the tilted chin, the ability to suggest, even in apparently innocent material, the possible double entendre.

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