INTERVIEW WITH BOBBYE AARON AND HENRIK HAGENSEN
on 13 December 2013
On Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th January 2014 “The Last Flapper”, a tour de force starring Bobbye Aaron and directed by Henrik Hagensen, will take place at the Salon Varietes Theatre in Fuengirola. Val Vassay spoke to Bobbye and Henrik at the theatre.
Val Vassay: What is a Flapper?
Bobbye Aaron: That’s quite a difficult question to answer but basically “flapper” was a term coined in the 1920s – the Jazz Age - to describe glamorous young women intent on enjoying themselves and flouting the restrictive standards of behaviour imposed on them at that time. Flappers were regarded by the rest of society as shallow, superficial and selfish but were really rebelling against the male-dominated, conservative mores of the age.
VV: Who was “The Last Flapper”?
BA: She was Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, wife of Francis Scott Fitzgerald, writer of “The Great Gatsby” and recognised as one of the greatest American authors of the 20th century. For many years they were a golden couple: Fitzgerald’s novels were a hit; they had looks, money, success, fame, and a daughter they loved. As Zelda put it: ‘it was as close to paradise as we ever got.’ Until it all started to go wrong.
VV: Was Zelda a typical flapper?
Henrik Hagensen: No, she wasn’t. Zelda was much more than that. She was a complex, fascinating woman: a brilliant artist and writer whose talents received little recognition, although her ideas and journal entries were often poached by her husband for inclusion in his novels and short stories. For Zelda, being a flapper was an escape from her strict upbringing and from a mother who liked to remind her that ‘we are genteel southern ladies’ and expected her to behave accordingly.
VV: What went wrong?
HH: Zelda could never settle for long in one place and the couple constantly moved around the most chic places in Europe – Paris, Juan-les-Pins on the Cote d’Azur, Switzerland – always living in expensive hotels. Eventually, they began to run out of money. Scott became an alcoholic. Zelda’s mental health, always fragile, worsened. She spent much of the second half of her life in mental institutions, where she was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
VV: In a different era might Zelda’s literary and artistic abilities have been recognised and might this have staved off her mental problems?
BA: Perhaps. Had her talents come to the fore she might have been a success in her own right. Also, it’s now thought she was bi-polar, not schizophrenic; given the correct diagnosis and treatment, she might have spent less time locked up in mental institutions.
VV: When and where is the play set?
HH: It takes place near the end of Zelda’s life, on the 10th of March 1948, in the doctor’s office at the Highland Hospital, Ashville, North Carolina, where Zelda was an in-patient. While she’s waiting for the doctor, who never turns up, Zelda hears voices from the past: her mother, her father, her teachers, etc. Bobbye plays all of these parts.
VV: Would you say Zelda’s life was one of extremes: a very strict upbringing; great joy and happiness in the early years with Scott and their daughter Scottie; illness and eventually tragedy in her later years?
BA/HH: Well, yes, it does seem like that. But in spite of all the ups and downs Zelda did not have a sad life because she could always see the funny side of things and used humour as a survival tool.
VV: Is “The Last Flapper” a show that would appeal mainly to women, or would men enjoy it, too?
HH: This show would appeal to anyone who enjoys going to the theatre. It’s a gripping and humorous drama, written by William Luce but based on Zelda’s own writings. Bobbye’s recent one-woman show - “Rose” – had me on the edge of my seat all the time, utterly transfixed. I am sure this show will have the same effect on both men and women.
BA: Also, when I performed “The Last Flapper” in the Riverside in Los Boliches some years ago, as a Boardwalk production, almost as many men as women came to see it and it was a great success.
VV: Is there a moral or a lesson to be learnt from this show?
BA: Definitely. The message that comes across loud and clear from the show, from Zelda, is BE TRUE TO YOURSELF. STOP TRYING TO FIT IN.
VV: Finally, tell me a little bit about yourselves.
BA: Henrik was a professional actor and director in Denmark, before coming to the Costa del Sol in 1996. He has directed several successful shows at the Salon Varieties and is always a joy to work with.
HH: Bobbye is a wonderful actress, with years of experience in the theatre. Not everyone can do monologues, where they are on stage all the time, playing many different parts; but Bobbye knows how to bring a story to life, so that people can understand it and, most important of all, enjoy it.
VV: Thank you both for taking time out of your busy schedules to speak to me. I am sure the show will be a huge success. I can’t wait to see it!