DAISY PULLS IT OFF
by Denise Deegan.
Upstairs at The Gatehouse Highgate Village N6 4BD To 14 April 2013.
Tue–Sat 7.30pm Sun 4pm.
Runs: 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 0208 340 3488.
Review: William Russell 13 March.
The girls of the Chalet School will love this staging of Denise Deegan’s glorious spoof of Elinor Brent-Dyer’s books, some 60 of them in total. Fans of the works of Angela Brazil, that other girls’ school story writer, will feel the same. It is a world of madcap girls, snobbish rich ones, poor ones on scholarships, senior girls of noble demeanour to admire, jolly hockey sticks, midnight feasts, and schoolmistresses who demand respect. Boys don’t feature.
The play, comedy of the year in 1983, has been skilfully directed by Thom Southerland in a handsome setting by Ben M Rogers which catches the spirit of such establishments perfectly. The casting is a joy since the gels are all played by actresses whose schooldays are, to be honest, somewhat in the past, for some longer in the past than others.
There is much pleasure to be had from a wrinkly in a gym slip uttering Deegan’s lines. Adam Venus is terrific as the headmistress Miss Gibson, a glorious blue-stocking with an immaculate perm who reigns supreme, although his turn as dragon form-mistress Miss Granville is perhaps a shade too strident. But his third appearance – not in drag – is a revelation.
As Daisy, the scholarship girl sent to Grangewood School for Girls – motto ‘Honesta quam Magna’ – Holly Dale Spencer, all sparkling dentures and long blond locks, is just right and as her madcap chum Trixie, up for any “stunt” going, from treasure hunts to hot water bottle fights, Gillian McCafferty matches her. But all the girls are good, especially Norma Atallah as Monica the obligatory sneak and Suanne Braun as Sybil the rich girl who does not with to be contaminated by contact with a scholarship person but turns out to be a good sort in the end.
The time is 1927 – Brent-Dyer started her books in 1925 – and maybe things in the world of girls’ schools have changed since then, but possibly not, other than today they probably get to indulge in “casual hob knobbing with boys.” One for all Brazil nuts you might say.
Daisy Meredith: Holly Dale Spencer.
Trixie Martin: Gillian McCafferty.
Sybil Burlington: Suanne Braun.
Monica Smithers: Norma Atallah.
Miss Gibson/Miss Granville/Mr Thompson: Adam Venus.
Belinda Mathieson: Ann Marcuson.
Alice Fitzpatrick: Paddy Glynn.
Clare Beaumont: Susan Travers.
Mr Scoblowski: James Yeoburn.
Winnie Irving/Mother Rosie/Mademoiselle: Olivia O’Shea.
School Pianist: Joanna Cichonska.
Director: Thom Southerland.
Designer: Gregor Donnelly.
Lighting: Ben M Rogers.
Musical Director: Joanna Chichonska.
Choreographer: Grant Murphy.