Mrs Henderson Presents

Movie review by Alice Castle

Starring: Judi Dench, Bob Hoskins, Will Young, Christopher Guest, Kelly Reilly

Director: Stephen Frears

Always one to support the British Film Industry — and a great fan of Dame Judi Dench, Stephen Frears and Bob Hoskins – MRS HENDERSON PRESENTS promises a mix of comic, wartime blitz spirit and mild titillation in the nudity on stage at London’s Windmill Theatre. Does it deliver? Yes, and no. There are stirring speeches, amusing scenes and some nice songs (Will Young plays a natty, gay entertainer). But something feels lost in the scripting, or perhaps the editing, as if Frears is trying to impress an American audience with some gutsy Brits standing up to the wicked ‘Huns’ with a touch of the Carry-on.

The Windmill Theatre was famous for having managed to stay open throughout the war, entertaining troops, sailors and airmen on leave with its successful mix of catchy ditties and topless tableaux. Because of the taste and decency rules of the time, nude actresses were only allowed to stand still on stage — naked movement a la Moulin Rouge was strictly prohibited. As a result artistic director Vivian Van Damm (Hoskins) and his patron, wealthy widow Mrs Henderson (Dench) came up with a seemingly endless supply of variations on the ‘nudity as art’ theme – along with a vast array of feather boas and cascading fruit to hide sensitive areas.

This is good, winter entertainment – but don’t expect a masterpiece.

3 out of 6 stars

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