Katie Stokes’ wink

Unexpected meetings with Zoe Tyler and Katie Stokes

At the end of the afternoon I walk into the hall where two technicians are talking to each other in front of the stage. Several instruments are situated at the back of the stage, in the middle there’s a tree trunk; that is all. ‘Is this where the Eva Cassidy story is been shown?’ I ask the boys. I have to repeat each question and the technicians have incomprehensible accents. They are able to make clear that all three nights are sold out, a miracle for a show that hasn’t been promoted by posters in a town where the citizens have no sense of culture. According to the technicians the actors play the instruments themselves. The play is given the illusion of taking place in several locations through the projection of film and photo images. ‘The music is very good,’ they emphasize.

In the foyer I discover several leaflets with information about the production. I take a couple and take a seat on a couch opposite a vending machine. The moment I sit down, the swing doors open and Zoe Tyler – fully dressed in black – enters, concentrated on the machine. In the UK, she is a well-known person and has quite a reputation as a singer. I say hello and tell her that I have seen her on BBC Breakfast. ‘Oh that was a terrible experience’ she says, ‘having to sing that early in the morning.’ She did it very well, though. What is her relationship with Eva Cassidy? ‘I love her songs and like to listen to them. After so many years of being a judge I liked showing the public what I am able to do. Nice to have met you,’ she says, finishing before she heads to the dressing room with a chocolate bar and a cup of coffee.

The foyer is filling up slowly. The audience is mixed, mostly mothers and daughters. I suddenly become aware of a table with Eva Cassidy CDs, a programme and a Zoe Tyler album. A young, fresh-faced girl is standing behind the table. She introduces herself as Katie Stokes. When she hears that I am from the Netherlands she asks me why in the world I have chosen to come to Motherwell. ‘Fortunately, you are not too far from Glasgow,’ she concludes. She looks at me as if she has saved me from suffocation. While we talk she sells all kinds of items to the other people. Katie belongs to a generation of multitaskers.

In the meantime, the hall is filling up and I take my seat on a reserved chair in the front row. The curtain opens and the band sets in with How Can I Keep from Singin’? An impressive and fitting start – these gospel roots were so important for Eva. Zoe Tyler sings very well, she is made up in such a manner that she doesn’t look exactly like Eva, but after a few songs you start to believe it. Film images give the illusion of a walk through the woods. The Cassidy family is gathered around the tree trunk. Now and then the actors sing shortened multi-voiced versions of Eva songs. Initially, the play is a bit virtuous, but in scene three – situated in a Wild West Show – the story becomes really funny. Suzanne Caley plays her part excellently over the top and reacts to the audience very well. Katie Stokes herself plays the role of Margret as a violinist (Eva’s brother Dan was the real fiddler, but nobody seems to know or care). When Katie recognizes me she gives me a wink, which really makes my day and has made this trip to Scotland more than worthwhile!

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