DAISY PULLS IT OFF
by Denise Deegan.
Watermill Theatre RG20 8AE To 10 July 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm. except 10 July performances at 1.30pm and 6.30pm.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.
TICJETS: 01635 46044.
Review: Mark Courtice 9 June.
80s favourite comes up fresh and funny.
At last summer’s coming, and with it the silliness that is English theatre’s summer season. Newbury’s contribution to this collective letting down of hair is Denise Deegan’s good-natured celebration of the girls’ school story.
From the not-so-muffled giggles from behind the curtain before the show starts to the piercing whistles of hockey practice, the tone is high-pitched and girlish, telling a strong tale of high drama, innocent passion – and even some politics.
Deegan’s take on the tone of the original stories is wickedly accurate – fun and funny; but she does the characters and their adventures (including toffish bullies, hidden treasure and midnight feasts) the courtesy of taking them seriously by their own lights. Because of this the play works. We do care about poor but talented scholarship girl Daisy, we hate her snobbish tormentors, we admire those who will do anything rather than sneak, and we delight at their hairsbreadth escapes from disasters that range from detention to drowning.
Caroline Leslie’s production sensibly responds to this, recognising that the pleasure (and there is lots of it) is in the situations and the characters, who introduce themselves by a sort of voice-over convention which guides us through lots of doubling of roles.
With energetic, committed and genuine performances, the acting is very much an ensemble affair. As the only male Robert Maskell has a good time with the Russian languages teacher while Emerald O’Hanrahan gives us an earnest Daisy, who is brilliant at everything from hockey to poetry. Amy Downham’s baddie, with her nose permanently in the air, thoroughly deserves her inevitable comeuppance.
Chloe Lamford’s neat, effective set, which moves desks in and out of play, with blackboards and screens folding in and out of the backdrop to change locations, only feels cramped when the climactic clifftop rescue takes place out of sight of those of us on the right hand end of row H. Add in apt music ranging from school songs to stirring hymns energetically pounded forth by Rosalind Steele, and this 80s favourite comes up fresh and funny.
Monica: Jaimi Barbakoff.
Alice: Claire Brown.
Sybil: Amy Downham.
Clare: Holly Goss.
Miss Gibson: Liz Marsh.
Daisy: Emerald O’Hanrahan.
Trixie: Rosie Jones.
Mr Thompson: Robert Maskell.
Winnie: Rosalind Steele.
Director: Caroline Leslie.
Designer: Chloe Lamford .
Lighting: Philip Gladwell.
Music: Paul Herbert.