Going by the title alone, you might think this show is some boot camp for knitting or a 101 lesson maybe. What the one woman show is really about, however, is a girl named Nell, World War II and the knitting culture that surrounded it – all nicely stitched together with knitting songs from the Second World War. You may ask “There is such a thing as knitting songs?” Yes, yes there are, and they make for a wonderful stage performance. Oh yes, and for the record, the title of the show is named after one of the knitting songs. Now you have some new knowledge to share at one of your next parties, especially since knitting is such a big deal right now. You’re welcome!
Let’s go back to the time of World War II. In the thirties and forties knitting was not a time of knitting on buses for fun or yarn bombing; women knit for the men overseas fighting in the war. Allowing them to contribute to the spirit of patriotism, these women kept their men warm and showed their love by knitting and couriering their woven creations across the world. The knitting songs, sung on the radio, were to inspire a sense of camaraderie, patriotism and gusto in the women of WWII to keep on knitting for freedom – a valiant cause.
Now let me introduce you to Nell – the one and only star of this theatre production. She is the daughter of Polish immigrants, lives in New York and HATES knitting. Really, really hates it. Nell dreams of being a singer like Shirley Temple. After scouring the newspapers for her ‘big break’, it finally comes. There is an advertisement for a female radio singer and Nell uses the money her mother gives her for groceries to take a cab to the audition.
Nell, in all her zest, arrives at the audition to learn she will be singing knitting songs. Despite all her best efforts to dissociate from knitting, Nell has been chosen to sing knitting songs and motivate woman across the country to keep up their efforts for their men. How ironic. The show tells the story of her becoming a radio star, and like any good war tribute, there’s a man that comes into the picture for Nell.
The format of the show is completely creative and enthralling, along with Melanie Gall’s onstage presence being quirky, natural and engaging; not to mention her singing voice, amazing and heartfelt. As Nell acts out her rise to fame, the only accompaniment she has is the music and a background radio voice to interact with. Then, when she wants to get a little bit more personal, the show switches to a knitting session with the audience. Stitch n’ Bitch style! Nell offers some knitting for audience members to work on and thoughtfully asks whom people were knitting for. As you would imagine an iconic wartime Knitting Nell would. This is where the charm of the show came into play, Nell chatting with the audience and sharing her love life gossip with us. Who doesn’t enjoy that? This is where the audience learns about Freddy – the soldier who wrote Nell a letter asking her to knit him something. I would love to tell you more, but what kind of friend would I be if I shared Nell’s gossip?
The show switches between Nell performing on air songs and inspiring the women of America, and her more intimate knitting sessions with the audience. Seamless in flow, Melanie Gall takes the audience back to a different era of knitting and romance all in the cozy Arts Club theatre on Granville Island. With the warmth that Melanie delivers this is not a show to go to only if you like to knit, this is somewhere where you feel like you can make a few new friends, and quite possibly interject with a romance problem of your own to talk over with Nell.
If you’ve never been to a knitting group before, I would suggest Nell’s as your first time. More Power to you Knitting, Nell takes a hobby with a major boom in the last few years back to a different time where you can’t help but feel the romanticism that was once associated with knitting and not so much the rocking chair culture of it all. Nell will warmly welcome you, in her optimistic enthusiasm and even give you a project to start knitting. Just make sure you’ve got some interesting romance story to share, because she will ask.