Fri 23 Jun 2023

Zoë Waterman talks about Directing the ‘Blonde Bombshells of 1943’

I write this in a corner of rehearsals as a music rehearsal happens around me – typing along to the rhythms of 1940s swing music and in awe of the talent in the room.

‘Blonde Bombshells of 1943’ is the story of a band – one brilliant, bolshy and glamorous enough to be appearing live on the BBC, and so our cast have to be absolutely stellar musicians. Watching Musical Director Greg Last bring them together in just a few short weeks to find lyrical brass solos, swinging bass lines and perfect harmonies has been a masterclass in technique whilst also finding the emotional heart of these songs.

Classics that speak of heartbreak, romance and joy.

Meanwhile the company also need to be fantastic actors. These are glorious characters. Strong, dedicated, funny women making a way for themselves in an utterly transformed world. We see the camaraderie and deep friendships they have formed. The pain and horror just under the surface four years into a bitter and deadly war. And also, the opportunities the war – and subsequent lack of men – provide them at a time when the traditional route for women of becoming a wife and mother was paved with dirty nappies, potato peelings and the sacrifice of any kind of autonomous, financially independent life.

It is such a privilege to weave these threads together, losing ourselves in the music and then re-emerging to witty ripostes and female solidarity. It remains vanishingly rare to work on plays with this many female characters – especially those not shaped by their relationships to men, but by their own hopes and dreams, and their extraordinary talent as musicians.

Making theatre again after long years of Covid lockdowns, restrictions and deaths and now amid the rising prices and spiralling poverty of the cost of living crisis; there is a real resonance with these people making music and joy in the face of the national crisis of a war. The ‘Blonde Bombshells of 1943’ offers a slice of escapism – complete with risqué jokes, a singing nun and fantastic frocks – without forgetting what the characters, and by default all of us, are seeking to escape.

No show is complete without its audience – and this is no exception.

I hope you will laugh, cry and tap your toes along with us!

© Robert Day