Monday, October 14, 2013

London play about Louise Brooks - Smoking with Lulu


Directed by Peter Turner
15 – 20 October 2013
Evenings 20.00
Matinee (Sun only) 17.00
London Theatre, SE14
Box Office: 0208 694 1888

Smoking with Lulu was first performed in Calgary, Canada in 1997 and subsequently at The west Yorkshire Playhouse in association with Soho Theatre Company. The action of the play takes place in a small apartment in Rochester, New York and is based on the real life meetings that took place in 1978 between Kenneth Tynan, the renowned and very decadent British theatre critic, and Louise Brooks, the iconic silent screen star of the late 1920’s.

At the time of the meetings Tynan was, in his mid-fifties, suffering from emphysema, and Brooks was in her mid-seventies. The purpose of the meetings was that Tynan was to write a profile of Brooks for The New Yorker magazine which when published in 1979 was called ‘The girl in the black helmet’ – a reference to Brook’s trademark black bob hairstyle. Yet Kenneth Tynan wasn’t just researching, he was sexually obsessed by Louise Brooks and had been for many years. It was an obsession grown out of his fascination of her film career and in particular her portrayal of Lulu in GW Pabst 1929 film ‘Pandora’s Box’. And for Louise Brooks, after having a lifetime experience of fuelling men’s, and women’s , erotic desire for her, expertly drew him into her web.

By 1978 Brooks was ill, old, penniless, and hard-bitten but she knew exactly which devices to employ to turn Tynan on. Cleverly using Tynan’s vision of her as the amoral Lulu in ‘Pandora’s Box’ Brooks was able to bend Tynan to her will. Or did he bend her to his. Yes he was addicted to sex but how far was the ageing Louise Brooks prepared to go to have Kenneth Tynan be besotted by her? Aroused by his obsession, did she need a love slave for one last final time?


Louise – Maureen Bennett
Ken – Simon Chappell
Lulu – Nadia Musa

Director – Peter Turner
Lighting Design – Sky Bembury


Beyond Theatre was founded as The Chelsea Players in 1959, and the present company are proud of those roots which give it fifty years’ experience on the London Theatre Scene. More information at

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