Ladies Down Under, Director – Christine Adams-Davidson
Reviewed at The Old Court Theatre, Chelmsford on Friday 3rd September 2021
This sequel to Ladies Day picks up the story of four former workers from a fish packing factory in Hull who win a life changing amount of money at the races. Here we join them as they set out on the holiday of a lifetime. We were warmly greeted by the Director/BA Chief Steward in full costume who welcomed us to Manchester Airport and our flight to Sydney. This was a nice touch and as we proceeded through the small foyer and into the lovely intimate auditorium, directions to arrivals were projected onto the back of the open stage, adding to the authenticity.
The opening scene of wild fires burning in the Blue Mountains was very realistic and we sympathised with a walker being told by a firefighter that he would have to turn back. The significance of this was revealed later.
Back at the airport we meet the ladies, all of whom were well cast. Jenny Hillyard was excellent as Jan, afraid of moving out of her comfort zone, and terrified of flying, she has nevertheless decided to join her former colleagues on their trip. Besides, she has arranged to meet a male friend at Sydney Airport so can’t back out now. There were some hilarious moments as her companions coaxed her onto the plane. Jane Smith was Pearl, a fun loving character who liked to keep a motherly eye on her younger travelling companions. It’s not until Act 2 that she shares some news she has been keeping to herself since before they set off. This was a superb performance.
Corinne Woodgate was great as Shelley. Her windfall had enabled her to indulge in a designer wardrobe, most of which she appeared to have brought with her in two large cases. Definitely not one for the great outdoors, there is no way she is camping out under the stars on a trip to Uluru. But then she meets Danny and things change. A lovely convincing performance.
Linda, well played by Meg Rennie, is the quietest of the four friends. Overrun with guilt at her good fortune, she had naively given most of her winnings away to ‘good causes’. She had no intention of letting money change her. All she really wanted was for her life to go back to how it used to be. That is until Mardi Gras came along!
Philip Wynter Drew was hilarious, first as cabin crew, then Shane at Surfer’s Paradise and finally as Koala Bare at Mardi Gras. Together with Iain Holding Sutton as Bondi Bitch and wearing fabulously over the top costumes with loads of sparkle even down to their fishnets and stilettos, they were a sight to behold as they sashayed down the aisle on their way to Mardi Gras. Very well done to both actors.
As well as being one half of the cabin crew, Chris Hudson played Danny who gently persuades Shelley to free herself of her old life. This may have been a small part but it was very significant and sensitively played. Joe, played by Alan Edwards, delayed by the forest fires, is finally re-united with Jan and makes her realise she still has plenty of life left in her. He also plays Charlie the spaced out beach bum who the ladies encounter at Surfer’s Paradise. Two very different parts, both of which deserve recognition.
The projected scenery was excellent and really complimented the story. Sound and lighting were good as was the well chosen music. The finale, with the whole company singing “I Am What I Am”, was a fitting way to end this well directed, uplifting and at times thought provoking production. Thank you for inviting me and for your hospitality.
Decia Ranger, NODA East, District 7