Ladies Down Under

This play by Amanda Whittington is a sequel to her earlier Ladies’ Day, in which four Hull fish packers took a trip to the races and hit the jackpot. Now we find them using some of their winnings to have the holiday of a lifetime in Australia, and I found myself mightily impressed that the Players had even managed to arrange Sydney-type weather for the production. Actually this is not a first, as I distinctly remember that a few years ago one of their productions featured a thunderstorm – and we actually got the real thing. Clearly someone at Poulner has influence where it counts….

Sequels can often be a pale shadow of the original, but in this instance that is absolutely not the case and once again we find ourselves drawn into the hidden depths of these beautifully drawn characters’ lives as they reflect on how far they have come, and not just in the geographical sense.

The stage is almost bare, save for a couple of benches at rear, with the scene set by projections onto a small screen, and my only slight complaint is that the blackouts between each scene seem unnecessarily long given the fact that there is little to actually change, breaking the flow somewhat. Having said that, a period of four weeks passes over the course of the play, so maybe the longer pauses are in fact justifiable.

Director Peter Ansell has been lucky enough to be able to use the same performers as he had in last year’s Ladies’ Day, so those of us who had also seen that production immediately felt that we knew the four women. I can’t say the same for the men, as although the actors are the same the characters they play are, with one exception, entirely different. Both Nathan East and John West do a cracking job with their characterisations and their Australian accents, John in particular playing a vastly differing range of people.

Janet West (Pearl), Adele Buxton (Linda), Sally Whyte (Jan) and Steph Haywood (Shelley) are once again utterly believable as the workmates, with the added dimension that they are now coping with being together on holiday – a time that can sometimes strain even the best of friendships.

There is a lovely scene towards the end of the play when they join in an LGBT parade in Sydney, singing and dancing to the wonderful ‘I am what I am’ from La Cage Aux Folles, and they appeared to be genuinely having the time of their lives, as did Nathan and John as the gloriously costumed Koala Bare and Bondi Bitch. Talking of costumes, a thumbs-up all round for those responsible is definitely in order.

I laughed, I empathised and I so longed to join in the song if only all my theatre-going was as thoroughly enjoyable as it was at this excellent production.

Future performances: 25-27 August at 7.30.