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Cheshire Cats

I was mystified at first by the title of this moving comedy drama but it soon becomes clear that it has nothing to do with Alice in Wonderland or cats and refers instead to a mixed bag of ladies from Cheshire, who form a team to take part in the MoonWalk, London. The MoonWalk is a charity walking marathon which takes place at night in the streets of London over the full 26.2 miles for some, or a half-marathon for others, with the aim of raising money for breast cancer treatment. I was vaguely aware of it to start with and some members of tonight’s audience had taken part in it. We were all, hopefully, more aware of it by the end.

The first act deals with the character introductions of the ladies of various ages, backgrounds and walking abilities as they organise and prepare for the big event. There is friction between the self-appointed but enthusiastic team leader, Hilary, played by Rebecca Davies, and some of the others. Dani Warner portrays Maggie, the youngest and least self-confident member of the team, with great sensitivity and credibility. Carole Allen, as the older divorcée, Vicky, rediscovers an interest in men – particularly a younger man called Andrew, played here by Christopher Stowe. There are some illuminating poetic interludes, used to great effect, as the characters, in spotlight, expound their own particular back-stories and motivations.

Act two covers the journey to London and there are comic moments, familiar to most rail travellers who are trying to understand station announcements.

Just before the interval there is a significant moment in which Maggie gets the others to write down their reasons for taking part in the MoonWalk on a postcard.

The actual MoonWalk takes place, mostly off-stage, during the third act. The action consists of a series of vignettes performed by the supporting cast, into some of which even the audience get drawn. Simon Dade and Clare I’Anson interact comically as race marshals, as also do June Garland and Chris Burdon. Nick Clarke wanders on as a gentleman who is “in his cups” and then interacts with two of our walkers. Gentle comic humour and pathos ensues. The act culminates with a well-executed, Chariots of Fire, slow-motion finish by our team.

I don’t want to betray the moving revelations and conclusions of the final act, as our tired MoonWalkers return home to Cheshire – you will have to see it for yourself.

The production is sensitively handled with some excellent performances by an experienced cast – there are no weak links. The sound effects of road and train noise are subtle and inobtrusive. It’s not a hilarious, belly-laugh sort of show, but it has its moments while covering some serious themes. It runs again on Friday 13 and Saturday 14 September.