City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

The Portable Dorothy Parker, Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre, Review

By Vivien Devlin - Posted on 11 August 2017

Margot Avery as Dorothy Parker
Show details
Rose Theatre
Michael Blaha and Nigel Miles-Thomas for Fringe Management
Running time: 
Annie Lux (writer), Lee Costello (director)
Margot Avery (Dorothy Parker)

Climb the four (or is five?) floors to the Attic at Rose Theatre, where the stage is furnished with a desk (typewriter, papers, books), drinks trolley (Haig and Haig whisky, ice, glasses), table, telephone and an armchair.

The setting is 1943 in Dorothy Parker’s hotel bedroom, midtown Manhattan, her apartment home. Margot Avery plays the legendary writer, critic, poet, and satirist, dressed in a rather dowdy brown dress and buckled leather shoes.

With an editor to assist her, she is choosing her best articles, poems, reviews and sublime rhymes, for a new anthology, “The Portable Dorothy Parker.” Sitting with a whisky in hand, she explains that her (second) husband Alan Campbell is on war service with the Army in Europe, whom she misses, (“he’s not queer, not really” she whispers in an aside). She rattles off a couple of her famous bon mots, “Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses” – which, on publication in 1924, led to poor sales at the opticians!.

With her own experience of marriage, she is bitterly cynical about romantic relationships:

By the time you swear you're his, shivering and sighing,
And he vows his passion is infinite, undying,
Lady, make a note of this, One of you is lying.

The “action” of the play begins with Dorothy selecting and reciting her favourite witty quotes and poems, collating sheets of paper into yes and no piles for the book. In between, she gives a potted biography of her career, first working for Vogue, where she wrote about lingerie, but determined to be a serious writer, moved to Vanity Fair as the drama critic, such “bad plays, fancy, terrible plays.” Apparently, prowling her way around Broadway, she was a gin-soaked quote machine, with a martini in one hand and a dagger in the other.

Unfortunately, having whetted our appetite, she gives no taste of these theatre reviews which would have been rather apt for this Festival Fringe show. We also hear about her less well-known work as a script writer in Hollywood, including the Oscar-nominated movie “A Star is Born”..but this fascinating time in her life is swiftly glossed over.

Pouring herself yet another whisky, she describes the Round Table literary lunches at the Algonquin Hotel, “The Gonk,” where writers, actors and critics shared their wit and wisdom every day for ten years. Then anecdotes about her soulmate, Mr Benchley, the "sweet" Scott Fitzgerald and her rival, Ernest Hemingway.

For a long tedious 80 minutes, Avery sits reciting, and often reading out, a relentless flow of Dotty’s witty ditties, which did not create either a humorous or dramatic play. As a theatrical portrait, it also fails to illustrate her real personality, the woman behind the poisonous pen.

A recent review of the Penguin Classic, “The Portable Dorothy Parker” sums it up thus: “ …. good to read, although it is best to dip in and out, instead of gorging yourself in one go.”

These literary extracts from Vogue, Vanity Fair and New Yorker were written for the page, not the stage. While there are a few amusing stories in this show, perhaps buy the book instead and browse at leisure - in small delicious bites!

2 - 28 August, 2017 @ 16.00
Ticket prices: £11/£12 (£10/11)
Age guidance: 12 +