Zoom talk: The Remarkable World of Joyce Grenfell – Lucky Amateur or Consummate Professional? By Joanna Lavelle

Wednesday, 12 May 2021 - 7:30pm

Joyce Grenfell’s monologues continue to delight audiences more than 40 years after her death, yet this popular entertainer received almost nothing in the way of formal training. Was she just a lucky amateur or a consummate professional who continued to develop her skills from her first professional appearance in 1939? Actress Joanna Lavelle will be exploring this question in a richly-illustrated talk covering the start of Joyce’s 'showbiz' career along with a look at her family life.

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Joyce Grenfell was the forerunner of observational comedy. Alan Bennett and Victoria Wood picked up her baton and ran with it in their own way, but Joyce was there first. Her comedy was never malicious, never seedy, never harmful; instead, she showed us the characters she had met along the way and brought them to life before us - funny, sad, but always performed with love. The talk will finish with two monologues.

About the presenter
Born in Lancashire, Joanna trained with the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. In the trio Wit, Warble and Tinkle Joanna, singer Vanessa Nuttall and pianist Paul Greenhalgh provided light entertainment of songs, monologues and recitations at venues throughout the North West of England. She developed an interest in the life of Joyce Grenfell which eventually evolved into the one-woman show. She is currently at the final stages of an illustrated talk about the life of Marilyn Monroe, 'Not such a dumb blonde.'

A chance meeting led to the development of a series of linked monologues by writer Michael Sheath. The four stories form a compelling drama called, 'Crossing the Line'. The play first appeared in the form of a single monologue at Buxton Festival and, with the addition of three more monologues, evolved into a full-length play tackling the difficult but important subject of abuse. “It is a powerful drama; Michael’s professional work in this field gives his characters a true authenticity” said Joanna. 'Crossing the Line' has been used by schools, colleges and churches interested in safe-guarding training and raising awareness of this difficult subject.

Joanna has researched Joyce Grenfell’s work for over thirty years and, through her one-woman tribute show 'Choice Joyce', has not only performed the well-known and popular favourites such as the nursery school sketches and 'Stately as a Galleon', but has also introduced audiences to the depth and range of the work of this extraordinary talent; monologues, like 'First Flight', which delicately reveals the nervousness of a well-meaning north country widow flying across the Atlantic to meet her American daughter-in-law for the first time, or Nicodemus, an African taxi driver, who although unable to travel out of his country is all the time “travelling in his mind” through books.

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