‘Ladies Day’ was lovely.
Set in 2005 at a humble fish plant in Hull, Yorkshire in the United Kingdom, Javeenbah Theatre Company’s production of ‘Ladies’ Day’ is a black comedic exploration of classism, romance, age and sisterhood.
Despite being a charming piece, bubbling with humanity and humour, ‘Ladies’ Day’ by Amanda Whittington is a difficult piece to stage. Set almost entirely at the Royal Ascot Races, scenes are long and are primarily character studies without much movement or advancement of plot, making it a challenge to direct in a way that keeps audiences engaged and enthused.
Seasoned director Dawn China has proven herself up to the task, keeping a tight rein over the direction of the scenes. Dawn is, in particular, to be commended for her sharp attention to detail; she has assembled a talented group of actors perfectly suited to their roles and made sure that the Yorkshire regional accent is natural and authentic. To a native Yorkshire ear a few minor inconsistencies might be apparent, but for the layman, Australian audience member the accents are impressively handled and the cast and director should be commended. Nothing seemed out of place in this neat and tidy production. The only break in what was otherwise a well-maintained pace was a series of long blackouts in order to change set; these were distracting and perhaps a tad too long.
Virginia Leaver in the role of Pearl stole the show. She was consistently sincere and genuine, providing both animated comedic moments and heartfelt drama with equal aplomb. Her character was central to the plot, and likewise, Leaver was central to this cast, providing an unparalleled consistency and likability. Opposite her, Bob Allen displayed versatility playing three separate roles, and in the roles of Patrick and Barry, he especially shone, with an impressive penchant for storytelling.
Equally, if not more versatile was the charismatic Martin Jennings, who tackled not one but three different accents for the show, and disappeared into three completely different roles with ease, providing many of the humorous moments in the piece. A highlight was his role as Jim, the posh, RP-speaking news commentator of the races, who shone whether he was addressing another cast member, speaking alone, or even as a background member to other scenes. His chemistry is to be commended, particularly opposite Corinne Meunier as Jan. Corinne brought an animated and exciting passion to her role as the reserved homebody, proving that there are no uninteresting roles. Corinne’s commitment to her inebriation was a magic moment, which more than made up for a few accent slips, likely brought upon by opening night nerves.
Rounding out the cast, Michelle Macwhirter played Shelley with wonderful comedic timing and an impeccable consideration to detail, not a word or facial expression felt out of place. She was equal parts daring, decisive and at times even delicate, and drew the audience in with her sincerity. Priya Das similarly won favour with the naive character of Linda. She was more than up to the challenge of playing a ditzy role, a trap many inexperienced actors often fall into by playing up the naïveté and ending up with a caricature; Priya provided nuance and depth, making the character of Linda a delight to watch.
Costumes by Christine McLachlan, Gillian Butcher and Teresa Palmby were a visual feast, with matching colour palettes and fashion appropriate to the period and region. Likewise, Corinne Meunier proves herself to be a talent on and off the stage, with a beautifully designed and simple set that was both visually appealing and functional. Lighting and sound were deftly handled by Colin Crow, simple but effective as the few variations that were present had great impact.
It was easy to see watching this show the care and consideration placed into every aspect of the production. The comedic timing was tight, the pace was great and the characters were loveable and quirky. While opening night nerves might be to blame for a few fumbles with lines and accents, this production is an enjoyable night out for anyone who enjoys fashion, British humour, and can relate to drinking too much on a night out.
‘Ladies’ Day’ performs until Saturday, 25 January 2020 at Javeenbah Theatre Company. Tickets are available for purchase at Javeenbah Theatre Company’s Website, and with a sold-out opening night, there may not be owt’ left so get in quick.