Saturday, 15 June 2019

AMATEUR THEATRE REVIEW: :Ladies' Day - PADOS House, Prestwich. Manchester.

Written by Amanda Whittingham (The Thrill of Love, Be My Baby) Ladies’ Day is a comedy drama about four fish-filleting ladies from Hull who decide to take a day trip to the races, to celebrate one of the foursome’s imminent retirement. Pressganged into celebrating her impending retirement by her three co-workers Pearl suggests Ladies' Day, as she just happened to notice that it was being held in York. Little do her three friends know that Pearl has an ulterior motive for choosing this particular venue for her celebration. Focusing on the friendship between the four distinctly different women, the play has proved hugely popular with amateur groups across the UK.

This production was performed by PADOS theatre group in Prestwich, who have been resident at their own building, PADOS House since 1976. This was a very clever move by the society because not only did it give them a much-needed rehearsal space for their renowned musical productions, PADOS House doubles up as the perfect intimate venue for a play. Seating about 65 it’s a great place to go and see a production, there is always a warm reception from the members who operate the bar and front of house.

The stage is small, but having constant access means design is clear and the space is always fully utilised and that was particularly used well. The stage was set into 3 distinct areas and this allowed the momentum of the piece to be fast-paced as the play requires.

The play opens in the fish-filleting factory. This is the first chance that we get to see the personalities of the ladies and their interactions. Whilst standing and gutting fish we find out what the girls had for dinner last night and the girls then relieve the boredom of their jobs by singing Ben (Michael Jackson) Is This The Road To Amarillo (Tony Christie) and All Rise (Blue). All songs at some point sung using fish as microphones, was a nice comedic touch, particularly funny with Shelly’s full-on imitation of Blue’s boy band moves. Very early on we see that Pearl (Justine Boardman) is looking forward to her retirement, Jan (Louise Robinson) is totally devoted to her daughter Claire, Linda (Emily Price) is controlled by her mother and Shelly dreams of being so much more than she is and desperately wants to escape all aspects of her life. Joe, their supervisor (Stephen Moss), tries to keep the ladies under control, before dropping the bombshell that he has obtained his visa to spend a year in Australia and soon will be leaving and agreeing to cover the girls with agency staff the following day the Ladies Day is on!

Having arrived at the racecourse, the girls are met by Fred (Adam Green) the 'wide boy' ticket tout, who emerges from the audience (nice touch) to offer the girls four tickets for the bargain price of five thousand pounds. Refusing to reduce the price Fred moves off leaving the girls wondering how they will get into the racecourse ticketless. Then lady luck intervenes as Linda find a purse in the toilet and on examination the girls discover it contains four tickets! The girls are in.

Pearl convinces the girls to place a bet on the tote. They need to win 6 races in a row but it’s only a fiver each, so they agree to take the plunge. As the girl’s guzzle champagne, they come across a variety of characters from a sleazy arrogant TV pundit Jim and a drunken racegoer (Adam Green) and an unfulfilled Jockey (Stephen Moss). As the day progresses we learn that, Jan fancies Joe, Shelly has huge debts, Linda has allowed her controlling mother back into her life and Pearl (the one person that everybody thought was happy) has been having an affair for seven years!

As a play it’s a wonderful “slice of life” observation with some fantastic one-liners and storylines that will resonate with all of us. If we are not one of the people on stage, we know someone who is.

In my introduction I mentioned that Ladies' Day is a comedy drama, and in this production, there was an abundance of comedy but sadly not enough drama. I know it’s always easy to criticise, but why did I leave feeling like this? Two scenes in particular; I felt the interpretation wasn’t true to the writer’s intentions. There is a scene in Act 2 where Linda meets the jockey. There is a monologue in this scene which describes the pinnacle of his career, what we saw was almost a parody where rather than seeing the elation of winning a race we witnessed the elation of two people having sex. The second is when Pearl “meets” Barry. We discover that Pearl has had an affair, with a bookie, and she has only decided that her retirement celebration should be at the races in the hope that she can see Barry again. She explains to Jan that their affair had been on-going for years, no phone numbers, no second names they just meet at the Station Hotel every week. Then Barry suddenly stops the meetings at the station hotel. For me this scene is like peeling off layers of an onion when Barry “appears” and talks to Pearl we need to know why didn’t he turn up? In the lib this is revealed by Barry explaining he was on his way to meet Pearl and was leaving his wife for her, when in a simple act of reaching for his suitcase he suffers a heart attack. He is in fact dead. So, is this a ghost is it a vision in Pearls head? In this production Barry appears in a white suit, the scene seemed rushed and the one real moment of pathos was lost.

Overall this was an enjoyable performance, but just one or two things didn’t ring true for me, but the audience loved it and in the end, maybe that’s all that matters.

Reviewer - Jen O'Beirne
on - 13/6/19

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