IDA RUBINSTEIN: The Final Act
This new play by Christian Holder reveals the untold story of Dance’s forgotten diva, Ida Rubinstein. A true tale of a forgotten Russian ballet dancer from a bygone extravagant, stylish era.
“Ida’s scandalous performance of Salomé led her embarrassed family to commit her to an asylum”
Two years ago I taped a voiceover alongside brilliant actress Ania Marson for this original play, scheduled to open last year, on September 2020. Lockdown thwarted it! Even the old theatrical axiom “The show must go on” couldn’t overcome Covid. However, now at last, it can!
Ania and I are on our way to watch a rehearsal run-through of Ida Rubinstein at the Playground Theatre, West London. We did our job of providing voiceover for the play way back in February 2020. Therefore, they do not require us in person as part of the live rehearsal. We can just sit back and enjoy the show.
Going to the Theatre
How to get there
White City tube is about a 15-minute walk from the Playground Theatre or the Latimer Road station is about a 13-minute walk. I choose to travel to Wood Lane tube station (not shown on the theatre flyer map). It is the most convenient for me. The station is opposite the old BBC Television Centre and a few yards downhill of the White City station where Ania and I are to rendezvous. On my way to meet her, I stroll through a new park. The park is 5 acres within a modern housing development. I walk by contemporary water features as a fast tube train goes along a viaduct.
Fast long tube train!
There is a new craft beer and pizza bar nestling alongside the gardens, which reminds me it is lunchtime. Unfortunately, rumblings in my tummy must wait. It is time to meet Ania.
At the rendezvous, I find Ania playing with an electric scooter!
“Lets scoot to the theatre!” she laughs.
She’s joking, right?
Changing the subject we grab a bite to eat as I don’t fancy a 15-minute walk on an empty stomach, nor do I think the involuntary disgruntled grumblings from my starving digestive regions would be a welcome sound effect through the rehearsal either!
We spot a chippy across the road from White City tube and dive in. They cook real chips here! Lovely unhealthy ones in beer batter!
Hunger assuaged. It is time to scoot (by foot!) to the theatre.
We arrive in good time. Plenty of time to take a selfie!
The Playground Theatre
I have never been to the Playground Theatre before. The theatre exterior has an unassuming appearance. On first impression, it doesn’t look much like a theatre to me, apart from the signage and theatre production posters outside.
Never tell a book by its cover
Never tell a book by its cover! This playhouse reminds me of Dr Who’s Tardis in respect that the exterior belies what is within. As soon as I enter the plain red brick building, I straightaway walk into another realm! We walk through a stylish lobby, past the bar (I’ll get to that later) into the auditorium, and into the creative story-telling magical world of dramaturgy, imagination and illusion. I am inside, outside of reality. I feel anticipatory excitement! Perhaps the dearth of theatre-going during Lockdown has affected me thus? But I don’t think so. Anyway, whatever the reason, I am so happy to be back home in a real live Theatre!
A true theatre has a certain unchangeable, indefinable evocative smell. Especially backstage. Some actors describe it as “The smell of greasepaint and the roar of the crowd”. Others call it “The smell of Home”.
We enter the auditorium and take our seats. Even though this is just a rehearsal, I feel the thrill I always feel when a play is about to begin.
The rehearsal stage is set with a gleaming grand piano stage left, and a chaise longue stage right. Actors are not in costume. The stage lighting not yet lit, and the stage itself devoid, as yet, of projected scenery and backcloths. And the mascot dog sits stage right.
Before the play starts, Christian takes time to show us his beautiful watercolour scenery designs and describes how the stage will look on the night.
I feel privileged when Christian takes time to show us his beautiful watercolour scenery designs
The run-through begins and I watch the story unfold. I am surprised when I hear my voice over the speakers. I have forgotten all about my tiny contribution to the soundtrack. 🎤
I am gripped by the tale, and Naomi Sorkin’s portrayal of Ida Rubinstein is fragile and touching.
The entire cast lures me into this sensitive play. I know I am sitting in the presence of something special.
“…her portrayal is fragile and touching”
Members of the Cast
Darren Berry, Marco Gambino, Naomi Sorkin, Max Wilson, Kathryn Worth
And of course, we mustn’t forget the awesome voiceovers of Ania Marson and Lesley Scoble, must we? 😉
Book by Christian Holder
Ida Rubinstein: The Final Act is written by distinguished Ballet dancer, choreographer, costume designer, singer entertainer, and painter Christian Holder.
Go see it, if you can!
I hope you are lucky enough to see this theatrical gem. It will surprise me if it doesn’t leave you wafting above the floor in an ethereal cloud of theatrical emotion surrounded by an aura of elegance.
If it doesn’t, I shall eat my hat! The straw one I wore to a recent England v India test cricket match at the Oval!
The play runs until 16th October 2021 🎭
I really look forward to returning to see the performance in all its full costumed splendour—but not before I disappear camping for a week in a far-flung field… somewhere in Dorset.
See you later! Stay safe x
Not content with staging a brand new play! Christian also has an art exhibition of his current work on show at the gallery Campbells London, Master Framers and Gallery, 35 Thurloe St, SW7 2LQ.
View more of his work here
Old school pals
I have known Christian Holder (and Ania too! But she’s not in this old photo) since we were at school at the Corona Academy of Theatre and Dramatic Arts, Ravenscourt Park, London (that’s me second from the left, and Christian is second from the right, back row).