Set to the soundtrack of Tony Christie’s music this wonderful play was an absolute treat tonight.
The four ladies and two gentlemen who made up this production were all equally well cast and gave us a truly fabulous insight into their lives and loves. Director Christine Davidson has been gifted with a wonderful cast for our four female leads who brought the story to life with such strong performances. Each of the characters had a hidden agenda but it was the beauty in the performances that really allowed the individualities to shine and at the same time work wonderfully as an ensemble leaving us really believing the realism of the story which tells of 4 ladies who work in a Hull fish packing plant going to Ladies Day at Ascot (the year it takes place in York) and the stories behind their everyday mundane lives.
With Chelmsford Theatre Workshop, I am always impressed with their stage and set dressing and this was no exception, I especially liked the innovation where they did a costume change from fish packer to Ascot glamour through a dance routine to Tony Christie’s Amarillo and their hat and shoes were hidden in the cold ice boxes.
Pearl, who is the most level-headed of the group and despite her many years married, finally reveals her secret affair in the Station Hotel for the past few years with Barry, a bookie who travels the country and with whom she hopes to reignite that flame at the races. Played by Jane Smith, this was a deep and emotional performance showing all the light and shade of a woman torn by what didn’t happen and how to come to terms with what might have been. I really enjoyed Janes portrayal as I felt it was very true and honest.
Jan is a mother who lives for her daughters Clare’s achievements after her husband left many years ago and we subsequently learn she has secret feelings for Joe, in the factory. Sarah Bell quietly crafted Jan the worrier and one of the highlights of the evening was her drunk performance which had great comedy timing and pathos.
Shelley is a brassy, sassy girl who likes to use her feminine charms to their full extent and find herself a millionaire or her fast track to stardom. Nikita Eve-Mansfield fell beautifully into this role. She used her sexuality perfectly and gave us a WAG wannabe with heart.
Mousey Linda has a mother, who likes to take advantage of her at will and who found comfort both in the music of Tony Christie and in a friendly interlude with one of the hungry jockeys. Laura Bradley was equally awkward and charming in this role and her scene with Colin Smith in one of his many roles as Patrick the Jockey was one of the loveliest moments in the play. Colin was equally well cast as Jim the bookie and Kevin the Drunk. The final cast member was Steve Holding-Sutton as Joe from the Fish Factory, Barry – Pearls’ lost love and Fred the ticket tout.
The theme of togetherness and friendship was highlighted successfully not only in the direction but the performances of the cast. I really enjoyed this evening and did, in fact, leave wondering what happens next in the story as I was so captivated with the show and the performances. Get yourself a ticket and get down to The Old Court Theatre, Chelmsford to see this great production now – its certainly worth it.