In name and nature – this is Glorious. Opening at Ilkley Playhouse this week, is Peter Quilter’s play which tells the story of the infamous coloratura soprano Florence Foster Jenkins. An extraordinary singer who performed to huge audiences in venues as impressive as New York’s Carnegie Hall and who is remembered very great affection.

If that was the whole story, it might not make much of a play. But, as mentioned, her talents were ‘extraordinary’. The play opens into a broad, open space, notably featuring a grand piano and bordered by huge art deco picture frames which give the characters who inhabit them, a real presence. This indeed, is a stage setting worthy of a true diva.

GloriousGlorious (Image: Ilkley Playhouse)

At the beginning of the piece, Foster Jenkins (Joanne Martin), is interviewing a new accompanist Cosme McMoon (Mark Simister). He has heard of her fame, but he has not, until this moment, heard her voice. Fair to say he is a little taken aback. The remarkable thing about dear Florence, is that in truth, she has no musical talent – at all. He voice is screechy and toneless. She cannot pitch a note, she has almost no musicality and seemingly, she has no idea. Surrounded by loyal sycophants she has seemingly gone through life in no doubt of her own ability. Entirely complicit in this deceit, is her partner, perhaps lover, the charming English man St Clair (David Kirk). His loyalty towards her has not waivered and indeed, he gives very little suggestion that he is aware of her short-comings. And yet, of course he is.

Into this delightful mix comes Florence’s hilariously batty confidante Dorothy (Jamesine Cundell-Walker) and her very docile dog and also a maid Maria, whose every line is delivered in Spanish – which no-one understands.

There are laughs aplenty – it is a very funny play and in common with the very best of comedies, there is more than a hint of tragedy. To find a modern-day comparison, we’d perhaps have to look at something like Britain’s Got Talent, or Strictly Come Dancing. Everyone knew that neither Stavros Flatley and Son nor John Sergeant could dance, but it didn’t stop the audiences from loving them.

Joanne Martin is superb as Florence – there is not so much as a flicker in her eyes to suggest that she is anything short of the talent she believes herself to be. And it is a truism that it takes a talented singer to sing as badly as she needs to in this! David Kirk is utterly charming as St Clair – a very genuine worshipper of his companion which makes it all the more troubling when he is unexpectedly taken ill. Mark Simister has the challenging task of switching his reaction towards Florence from incredulity to collusion and he plays this beautifully.

GloriousGlorious (Image: Ilkley Playhouse)

Sara Allen, as Mrs Verrinder Gedge, offers the only voice of dissent when she storms the stage at The Carnegie, to demand an end to the charade, but like the booing of the judges who turn away an act on Britain’s Got Talent, she is swiftly dismissed.

This play elicits a fascinating array of emotions as you find yourself questioning how ‘FFJ’ managed to convince herself and others. And perhaps we wonder if she in fact embodies ‘everyman’ – anyone who has wanted to produce something that they have seen in their imaginations as beautiful and clever and original, only to find that their product falls way short of what was hoped for. Thought provoking indeed. Bravo to director Chris Winstanley for creating such a stirring piece.

This super production runs In Ilkley Playhouse’s Wharfeside Theatre until the 29th June.

Tickets are available by calling 01943 609539 or online at