Best known for her stage and screen work in Australia, Amanda Muggleton returns to London, and The King’s Head Theatre, for the first time in three years to perform as theatrical royalty in Maureen Sherlock’s Coral Browne: This F***ing Lady.
“I love being back in London, and I’m not usually here when its beautiful weather like this, I’m thrilled to be here, and to get to spend time with my family, but now I’m getting down to the real nitty gritty of learning lines and rehearsing.”
There’s a lot of line learning to be done, because just like The Book Club, Amanda’s last play at The King’s Head, Coral Browne is a one woman play, “Yes, just little old me again, playing the infamous Coral Browne, it can be a strain but I love it” laughs Amanda, “She is a hell of a woman. A lot of fun to play, and she’s very sophisticated, and that’s what makes it so funny, when she swears it’s a shock.”
Coral Browne is an actress who truly made a name for herself in England, but remains largely forgotten in her native Australia, “This woman started her life in Australia, and did well, but then came to England and passed as theatre royalty here, and she perfected her accent so a lot of people didn’t even realise she was Australian, which is something Australians seem to be able to do, they seem to have the music to be able to do accents well.”
“She eventually married Vincent Price, but she with mixed with the likes of Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, John Gielgud, all the big names, and they all mention her in their biographies, she’s well and truly in there, she had such style and was so naughty.”
Amanda laughs “It’s the perfect role for me really, – naughty, she’s naughty with her language because it’s very colourful! She said the ‘F word’ with the most beautiful accent, and back in the fifties and sixties it just wasn’t done, especially by women, but she just floored everyone with the way she said it, which is where the title comes from.”
Coral Browne won a Bafta for An Englishman Abroad, a true story which was written for her, “She won a Bafta and an evening standard award here, so people here remember her much more, but the play sets the scene for people who don’t know her, we say things like she was in Auntie Mame and worked with George Formby, so we explain all that.”
A book with a similar title was released a few years ago, but that’s not the basis of the play, “Maureen Sherlock did so much research,” explains Amanda, “All of Coral’s belongings were donated to a museum in Melbourne, and Maureen has gone through it all to create this wonderful play.”
“She had so many affairs, with so many famous people, and she kept everything, so when you hear me reading love letters from famous people, they are real.”
Maureen Sherlock happens to be in the next room and pops in to say hello, “I love research, I find it so seductive” she explains, “but I had to draw a line, everything was there, even old bills!”
But finding the letters between her and her mother gave me the arc of the story to tell, how she escaped from her jealous mother and headed to the bright lights, always in fear of being discovered as just a provincial girl, because she worked so hard to reinvent herself.”
Maureen has never worked with Amanda before, but she says the experience is wonderful “I’ve seen her work of course, but this has just been incredible, I’m directing the play as well, and Amanda has really pushed me, and challenged me to take it in different directions.”
Amanda actually met Coral Browne in the early eighties, but has a confession to make, “I only had eyes for Vincent Price! He was so handsome! Little did I know I would be playing Coral all these years later. I do remember her being terribly lah-de-dah and very funny, but I have drawn from that meeting for this play, she was very astute, and had a wry, knowing smile, and twinkling eyes, she was very naughty, but she was nice.”
Coral Browne: This F***ing Lady is at The King’s Head Theatre 19th May to 3rd June 2019.
Image Credit – Prospect Productions