Review: Fenella Fielding Live Reading at The Crazy Coqs, Brasserie Zédel

The hardest bit about writing this review? Not overusing the word “glamorous”…

Last month, we headed to one of our favourite venues – The Crazy Coqs theatre at Brasserie Zédel – to hear the divine Fenella Fielding read from her memoirs.

Vampy darling of stage and screen, Fielding found fame for the versatility of her acting and her distinctively sexy voice. And she is glamorous as anything. Known as “England’s first lady of the double entendre”, her memoir “Do You Mind if I Smoke?” transports you to the London of the 50s and 60s, complete with tarts, nightclub owners, and naïve young actresses just trying to make it.

Growing up in North London to Romanian and Lithuanian parents, Fielding’s decision to become an actress began – as she tells it - with the elocution lessons her mother took her to, where she was required to read poems and short plays aloud. Fearing her parents would disapprove of her career choice, she decided to give them no say in the matter whatsoever, and promptly up and moved out one day, without a word of warning.

It turned out to be an excellent decision, and by the late 50s she was a star, splitting her time between comedic performances, and more serious shows, her genius lying in her ability to play in Carry On films and productions of Ibsen…and be equally good at both!

Listening to her read her life story felt like sitting at the feet of a glamorous aunt and listening, rapt, to the adventures she’d had – from exhausting an elderly would-be gentleman companion by making him climb all the stairs to her flat, to meeting and working with some of the greats, including Tony Curtis, Kenneth Williams and Groucho Marx.

She is the epitome of fabulous – all clear-cut accent (thank you early elocution lessons) and gravelly tones, and The Crazy Coqs is the perfect venue for sitting and listening to a live reading. Intimate, atmospheric, and suffused with the old-timey glitz that the book is full of.

We left feeling warmed by her personality, charmed by her life’s experiences and totally in awe of her. The woman is in her 90s, for goodness’ sake,  and she stood and intoned – stunningly – for over an hour. (I don’t even like to stand for 10 minutes on the Tube…) Basically, she is a fabulous badass, and if I am half as cool when I am 90, I will be chuffed as all hell.

If you’re now feeling terribly jealous – fear not! We have some options for you. Fielding will be doing another live reading at Zédel in January  and a series at the Phoenix Artists Club in February and March, and - if you’re still searching for the perfect Christmas present – we highly recommend the book, it’s a hoot. And very, very glamorous.

* "glamorous" count = 4. Must try harder.


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