One of the things I have always loved most about theatre is getting to enjoy a brand new play that I have not yet had the enjoyment of attending.
I had no clue what to expect when we reached the Chesil Theatre in the heart of historic Winchester, and the production certainly didn’t disappoint.
I simply have to start with the set and costumes. They were utterly breathtaking. From the green and cold Pianoforte, the chaise longue that I wish was in my living room, and to the period perfect costumes and wigs. I actually uttered the word “wow” when the curtains drew back.
Maid Lucy played by Emily Holden was wonderfully cheeky, delightfully naïve and really seemed to come in to her own in the second act when her character grew and evolved.
Sisters Emily & Louisa Creed played by Helen Bliault and Sarah Hawkins, were described in the play as “pathetic” and both actresses did a very good job at being just that. With a dash of silliness, a dose of youthful innocence and an, at times, sad look at their lives, these were two characters that I could say were truly innocent throughout. Misguided, but without a dose of any real malice. They were utterly charming.
Sister Theresa played by Cassandra Powers was heartwarming, and had us as an audience really put at ease by her charming and sweet character. Her performance was a little nervous towards the end of the play, my only critique at all, to the point where I didn’t think it was the character but the actor who was a little uncertain. I would recommend confidence and trust in her work as she certainly has a great deal of talent.
Ellen Creed, sister to Emily & Louisa, started out the show a little quiet but really warmed in to the role, having me very confident in her within a few minutes. She was strong, utterly wicked and cold as ice at the drop of a hat. I was throughly impressed by her work.
Albert Feather played by Andrew Jenks was a regular diamond geezer, as well as a brash scallywag with a flare for cheating people out of their earnings. The character was at times a little stiff, perhaps due to nerves, I think confidence in his abilities would only add to the characters cheekiness. Overall however, this was a fabulous character, absolutely reprehensible, but fabulous.
My star of the show this evening ironically goes to the actress only in the first act! Lady Leonora Fisk played expertly by Helen Milton-Symes was confident, controlled, warm yet expecting of the utmost standards, even going so far as to elicit an emotional response from the audience who were angry with her when she was angry, and happy with her when she was too.
All of this would not have been possible, of course, without the well detailed direction of Malcolm Brown who took a show that looked stunning, to a piece of theatre that actually was stunning.
My only critique really would be that the off stage character of Burke the trap driver was rather quiet, and I really struggled with being able to hear what was said off stage. This carried over in to the live off stage voices of the actors also, so I would recommend a slight upping of these volumes.
With a twist or turn aplenty and a veritable delight of a cast, Ladies In Retirement was a very enjoyable evening’s entertainment and just the tonic I needed after not feeling too well at start of the week, and I would absolutely love to see anything and everything that the Chesil Theatre has to offer.
Ladies In Retirement plays at the Chesil Theatre until the 28 May.