[2011030] You’re Not Like The Other Girls Chrissy

You’re Not Like The Other Girls Chrissy [FringeTIX]

Caroline Horton @ Holden Street Theatres – The Arch

1:00pm, Sat 19 Feb 2011

A young French woman, Christiane, bumbles in from the back of The Arch, carrying a set of suitcases. She struggles onto the stage, dropping them in front of a pale French flag; there’s a blast of français over the loudspeaker that establishes the location: Gare du Nord, one of the large Parisian railway stations. Christiane is waiting for a train to take her to England, to be re-united with her fiancée; it is 1945.

Christiane initially addresses the small crowd (of around a dozen) in French; I pick up enough words to get the gist, but there’s a lot of muttering behind me as friends translate for other friends. Eventually, Christiane queries “oh – you speek Eengleesh?”, and things become much easier to follow – albeit with a delicious French accent.

Christiane tells a simple tale, with a curious beginning: to prevent her deteriorating eyes from becoming worse, she is sent from her familial home in the Parisian suburbs to live in England for awhile, where – due to a feeble grip on the language – she could not spend all her time simply reading. There, at a tennis club (with a gorgeous recollection of the game – *pof*), she meets her beau-to-be, Cyril; she later returns to France, invites him to visit, and he requests her hand in marriage of her father.

Soon after Cyril returns to England, war breaks out; suddenly, their communications become sporadic, and at one point Cyril even releases Christiane from their engagement… only to recant the release in numerous later letters. When the Germans seize Paris, Christiane flees the city, and she tells of her attempts to help the Red Cross, in order to get access to rare telegram privileges; she eventually returns to Paris, battles with bureaucrats in order to get permission to go to England to marry Cyril, leading us chronologically to the opening moment of the performance. As she boards the train to England, the lights drop and we’re shown a collection of photos and home movies of Christiane and Cyril’s marriage, their children, and… their grandchildren.

Including a very familiar granddaughter pushing Christiane around Paris in a wheelchair.

And it’s only then that I realise what a personal performance this is for Caroline Horton, who only lost her grandmother Christiane earlier this year. I really should read the show notes more carefully.

Caroline is a terrific performer; she owns the stage without being domineering, and her accent and mannerisms reminded me of my French neighbour – perfect. Whilst it’s a relatively simple production, the physical performance is textured by some clever props that appear from her suitcases – pop-up cityscapes and radios – and some glorious little personal touches: as she mimes a rowing expedition, Caroline’s (actually, they were Christiane’s) bracelets clink together softly as her arms move back and forth.

You’re Not Like The Other Girls Chrissy is a beautiful, funny, and – at times – touching piece of theatre, performed by a wonderful actress with great engagement of the audience. I can only hope that the “crowd” this afternoon is not indicative of the rest of Caroline’s run, because it really does deserve a wider audience.

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