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(April 2004)

Shirley Henderson Shirley Henderson – Ferocious Fairy
We first saw Shirley Henderson in Topsy-Turvy (1999), Mike Leigh’s delightful movie about Gilbert & Sullivan and the creation of The Mikado, their 19th Century masterpiece. Henderson played the soprano Leonora Brahm who first created the role of Yum-Yum in 1885. What was so wonderful about Henderson’s performance was that when ‘on stage’ as Yum-Yum she was darling, charming and brilliant- singing the part to perfection and acting coy and comely as the role required. Prior to this movie, Henderson had no formal opera training- as a teenager she had sung pop and folk in clubs in her native Scotland. Regardless, she is absolutely riveting while singing.

Leonora Brahm was a first rate soprano and much a favorite as a D’Oyly Carte prima donna. However, her position was constantly threatened because of her off stage drinking problem. In Topsy-Turvy, Shirley Henderson shows this aspect of Brahm’s character perfectly when ‘off-stage’. She’s meek, fawning and pitiful, especially in a scene where she’s trying to negotiate with producer D’Oyly Carte. It’s a great contrast to the singing and it’s exactly what the role required.

Leonora BrahmHenderson is a versatile performer. Although she’s closer to 40 than to 30 in age, she can easily pass for 17. In fact, she was a delight as the 14-year-old ghost Moaning Myrtle in Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets. She’s scary and funny at the same time. She’s can currently be seen in two movies- Wilbur, from Danish director Lone Scherfig. Writer Ruthe Stein said in the San Francisco Chronicle, “Henderson is a force to be reckoned with onscreen. Here she quietly insinuates herself into the brothers' lives, bringing along a darling daughter who provides Wilbur with another reason not to give up on life.”

The second Shirley Henderson film currently in theatres is Intermission, a dazzling Irish film. Here again is Ruthe Stein, “My favorite character is Deirdre's wounded sister, Sally (Shirley Henderson, in another of the film's pitch-perfect performances), who has eschewed personal grooming since her beau dumped her in an unusually cruel fashion and who now sports a discernable moustache.” We at The Toast are looking forward to seeing a lot of Shirley Henderson in the future.

Oh, the “Ferocious Fairy”- Henderson has done a lot of theatre in Great Britain. In 1995 she was in a London play and earned critical acclaim for her “fairy-like ferocity”.

Easter Trivia QuestionPeter Rabbit
It’s April now and springtime and Easter are in the air. Speaking of Easter- we have a trivia question for Baby Boomers and lovers of classic animated cartoons. Name the cartoon that features dancing, ukulele playing bunny rabbits wearing sarongs, and turnips for hats. The answer next month.

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