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Diana Dors, Her Story

11 September 2018

Sex, Success and Sadness

Diana Dors, Her Story

Tarts on Tour Productions and Blue Fire Theatre at Hampton Hill Theatre, until 8th September

Review by Mark Aspen

To the teenage schoolboy of the early 1960’s, Diana Dors was the snigger behind the bicycle sheds, the stuff of dreams, the sort of dreams that you didn’t tell mum about. The epithet blonde bombshell could have been hand-made for Diana Dors, but the effect of the bombshell was largely incendiary, firing up not only the school boys’ testosterone, but the printing presses of Fleet Street’s more inquisitive popular red-tops, and the indignation of multitudinous moral makers.

Step forward half a century, and we can warmly smile at all the fuss. What was it all about? The world then, still recovering from a World War, held different insecurities from now, the positions that men and women played in society were certainly very different, aspirations were modest. The London that attracted Dors, as LAMDA’s youngest ever student (at 14, she had lied about her age) was a city of excitement, full of opportunity, but with a hint of danger. The excitement was to propel her into taking on major (and sometimes risqué) film roles whist still in her mid-teens. The opportunity beckoned to a girl with an ambition, although her early ambitions were modest, such as to own a cream telephone. The danger led her to meeting some of London’s most notorious characters and to become involved in liaisons that were to bring her much pain and financial loss.

Dors

Diana Dors, Her Story is told by Mandy Winters in her feisty one-woman show that tells of the wit, the openness and the real talent of a woman fighting her way in a world of tough, and often unscrupulous men. As Dors, Mandy Winters simply becomes the Diana Dors, candidly revealing the story of the life of a woman morally compromised by her circumstances, but resilient, and above all one with a true and generous warmth of character.

Presented as a cabaret revue, Winter’s sparkling musical show at the Noel Coward Studio in the Hampton Hill theatre, was a great fun evening. The audience, some seated café-theatre style, were immediately drawn into the mood, and my how she could work that audience!

Having been introduced by her warm-up man (and “minder”) Ken Shagwell (yes, the scene is set!) the agenda was firmly on our candle-lit tables, with Diana’s frank admission that “I based my career on sex: on men, sex and money, in that order”. The story of that career was told through Diana’s songs, and here Winter really hit the button, her rich mezzo is so creamy, you could pour it out.

The music rides on the strong foundation of the The Collection Trio, led by Music Director Adrian Brown, a group clearly comfortably as one with itself, Jimmy Tamley on Drums and Jonathan Burrows on the keyboards, while Brown plays the guitar. The quicksilver repartee between the trio and Winters was one of the joys of the performance, and formed the springboard for the comedy.

The many songs, sung with vibrancy and verve (the Cole Porter standard Just One of Those Things was one of many that stood out for me), were the milestones in the story of Diana’s life, told with intimacy. The story emerged in little nuggets. At her early start in main-stream films, “They asked me to change my name. I suppose they were afraid that if my real name Diana Fluck was in lights and one of the lights blew … ”.

We learnt of her marriages, often very bumpy; to Dennis Hamilton in 1948, Richard Dawson in 1959 and finally in 1968 to Alan Lake; of her frequent affairs, including with Rod Steiger and with Tommy Yeardye, the stuntman to Victor Mature, which caused transatlantic furores with her contracted big-name film and recording companies. We learnt of parties with the Kray brothers and with Ruth Ellis, the last woman in Britain to be hanged. Dors courted notoriety, but, as Winter accurately portrayed, was tragically vulnerable. Dawson exploited her sexuality, Yeardye stole thousands of pounds from her safe deposit, and Lake allegedly hid away her fortune before he committed suicide.

Nevertheless, Winter’s biography was decidedly up-beat and it was the good times that shone through . . .  and Dors’ humanity. As she said, “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice”.

This was a show that concentrated on the sex, not the men or the money, but in a very light-hearted way that the enthusiastic audience thoroughly enjoyed, being brought into tiny hints of the infamous Dors’ orgies, thorough audience involvement! Yes, the Hokey Pokey Polka, which all joined in singing and dancing, has the memorable words, “if you want to know what bliss is, go on and try it on the Missus”.

It was not for nothing that Marilyn Monroe was described as America’s Diana Dors (or was it the other way round?)

If Dors based her career on sex: men, sex and money, in that order, it was men, sex and money, in that order, that led to her downfall … but she did get her cream telephone.

Mark Aspen
September 2018

Photography courtesy of Tarts on Tour.

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From → Cabaret, Drama, Music, Reviews

One Comment
  1. Jeff permalink

    Brill !. Wish I had been there, but will now look to catch up at some future venue.

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