Lena – 4.5**** - One4Review
one4review | On 10, Aug 2023
For those of a certain age, the tale of Lena Zavaroni is a well-known and tragic story. This production charts her stratospheric rise to stardom in the 1970s after her record-breaking appearances on the talent show Opportunity Knocks, followed by her descent into depression and anorexia nervosa. With Hughie Green as narrator (played by the ever reliable and excellent Jon Culshaw), we follow Lena from her humble beginnings in Rothesay with a doting father (Alan McHugh) and ambitious mother (Julie Coombe), to London where she is under the dubious care of Dorothy Solomon her agent (played by Helen Logan). From the very start of her career, she was made self-conscious about her weight, and it is heart breaking to witness her life unravelling. Without her parents to protect her well-being, she was never going to be able to withstand the pressures of a singing career .
Erin Armstrong’s performance as Lena is superb. She manages to portray the excited 10-year-old child with the world at her feet, as well as the tragic soul whose only means of controlling her own life is to stop eating. With the accompaniment of a talented on-stage band, Erin’s singing is powerful and beautiful, and the audience appreciated some old classics such as Speedy Gonzalez and of course Ma, He’s Making Eyes at Me. When Lena is weaker, Erin is able to portray her fragility with such delicacy and her songs take on an incredible poignancy. This was never going to be a cheerful afternoon’s drama but it’s an unmissable piece of theatre and a cautionary tale.
Reviewed by Rona
Assembly George Sq – Gordon Aikman Theatre
12.35pm (1hr 20)
Until 28th August (Not 15th)