Friday, 3 October 2014

Preview - Betty Has To Go Now

MENTION Betty Crocker and most people will think cake. The American brand was created in the 1920s following a response to a Gold Medal Flour promotion which saw an overwhelming number of letters from women requesting cooking advice.
It was to spawn a complete industry in cake and cookie baking with recipes, books, bakeware and ready made dough, inspiring generations of women and which is still one of the most recognised brands today.
Although she was never a real person, the fictitious doyenne of American home economics has been the inspiration of a solo play, Betty Has To Go Now, written by and starring West Dulwich actress Deirdre Strath.
It features Deirdre as a woman obsessed with Betty Crocker and who lives her life by cake - and the odd cocktail.
She will be taking her creation to the stage at the LOST Theatre's Face To Face Festival on Thursday, October 9 and says it will be an evening for the audience to savour.
"I play a woman obsessed with Betty Crocker and who believes she can bake her way to world peace, one dictator at a time and solve all of our problems at home too," says Deirdre.
"I have a cocktail in one hand and a cookbook in the other and am never far away from a fully stocked cake stand.
"Throughout the play you get to see this woman and the way she deals with things which is basically believing she can bake her way through the world's problems. As soon as things gets stressful she bakes again - so she has a whole table full of cakes and cookies!"
The piece has grown in length since Deirdre originally came up with the idea and she admits she is still tinkering with the script.
"Betty started out as a 10-minute piece and then it got longer and longer and now it's at about the 50 minute mark," she says.
"I had an image of a woman in a dress with a cocktail and a cake stand and it grew from there. It's also very funny with the comedy stemming from her character."
And there is plenty of cake though Deirdre admits most of it is pre-made. There is also a bit of interaction with the audience though she stresses it's not the "scary kind".
"I do go into the audience and chat to them but not in a scary way!" she assures me.
But is Deirdre is anything like her character I wonder?
"Well, she loves to cook and she's warm hearted and likes to do things for people which is a quality I'd like to think I have.
"However there are moments when she is not so nice - for example she's not keen on her son bringing his girlfriend home!" she laughs.
"She also doesn't understand why people don't have freshly made cookie dough in the fridge for when people arrive unexpectedly!
"But despite herself she's good fun and I've had fun creating her," she adds. "I have fallen in love with her a little bit and would like to think she's a bit of a tonic in this world we live in!
"She's taught me to cook better though I have always baked. In fact my first cookery book was a Betty Crocker cook book for kids - I would make a fairytale princess cake and I made a carousel cake which was cool. They never look like they come from a shop window though," she laughs.
"I do what Betty would never do - throw it together!"

Betty Has To Go Now is part of the Face To Face festival of Solo Theatre at the LOST Theatre, Wandsworth. Call the box office on 0207 722 6897.

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