Our most recent production, Ladies’ Day (by Amanda Whittington and directed by Tony Clegg), was considered a very well written play and very funny.
For the first time we also had a licenced bar for pre-show and interval drinks, with the help of Burley Parish Council, in addition to our usual tea and coffee refreshments.
The Queen’s Hall still proves to be a fine theatrical venue for the local area, and quite a gem in the Wharfedale area.
Review by NODA
Amanda Whittington’s gently humorous play – inspired by the relocation of Royal Ascot to York in 2005 – tells of the comical trials and tribulations of four working class Yorkshire women as they mingle with the toffs on Ladies’ Day. Our merry band of fish-packers from Hull were brought to life in a most engaging fashion by the actresses of Burley Theatre Group, not forgetting the 2 actors, in a range of parts.
Our story begins on the fish-packing line in Hull as we’re introduced to our diverse cast of characters and the first of a series of neatly staged scenes, transforming quickly and neatly into the racecourse (and back again) later. The staging throughout was simple yet effective and allowed the stage crew to be involved in the action. Congratulations to whoever created the York racecourse backdrop.
Leading the way as Pearl, Ann Bradley, was well cast as the maternal figure who sets the plot in motion with her plan to take the girls on an outing to the races; the less worldly Jan was nicely brought to life by Pam Leach; feisty would-be ‘WAG’ Shelly was a vivid creation from Lauren Varley and Kathy Jackman did a fine job of bringing Tony Christie fan Linda to life. In a remarkable feat of theatrical multi-tasking, all the male roles in the production were played by Damian Burras and Michael Padgett in a wonderful display of varied characterisation.
First time Director, Tony Clegg, clearly brought the best out of his cast who all worked well together, creating a solid, tightly-knit and believable ensemble. The play takes us from the drearily industrial setting of the fish-packing factory floor to the glamour and excitement of Royal Ascot, a gently humorous journey which at the same time manages to probe – ever so slightly and never terribly deeply – the hopes and disappointments of our working class women. I thought it was interesting that we seemed to be asked to sympathise with Pearl’s long-term infidelity rather than question it and it is to Ann Bradley’s credit that she managed to put the character across so well. Jan’s ‘drunk scene’ was handled well too, never tipping over into over-the-top slapstick and much more believable as a result. Shelly’s humorously brassy confidence was also very well expressed and helped to highlight the hollowness of our celebrity obsessed age into the bargain!
The various male characters were clearly defined and well played by the two men –Michael, being unpleasantly creepy as Jim McCormack, whilst Damian’s jockey “ride” was a tour-de-force, worthy of its applause; great work both of you. The play’s denouement between Pearl and Barry can be something of an anticlimax and with so many everyday concerns jostling for position (an ungrateful daughter, a difficult mother, unrequited love, a secret love affair etc) but the imaginative use of Neil Sedaka’s “Solitaire” was a master stroke that overcame that problem.
This was a solid, polished production which went a long way to disguise the rather thin material afforded by the script and made a virtue of concentrating on making the characters really come to life. Everyone in the cast is to be commended on a first class performance and by the time we reached the end of the show, the fact that we had grown fond of our fish-packing ‘fishes out of water’ showed how well the company had succeeded. My thanks go to everyone at the Queen’s Hall for a warm welcome and I look forward to visiting you for Peter Pan.