LADIES DOWN UNDER
by Amanda Whittington.
Queen’s Theatre Billet Lane RM11 1qt t0 11 September 2010.
Tues-Sat 8pm Mat 4, 9 Sept 2.30pm.
Audio-described/BSL Signed 4 Sept 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.
TICKETS: 01708 443333.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 31 August.
Kind-hearted drama sandwiching the serious between generous slices of fun.
Amanda Whittington’s four female fish-filleting factory-workers began life at home in Hull during 2005 when they took advantage of Ascot moving to York to have a day at the races in Ladies’ Day. The fortune they won there sent them to Australia two years later in Ladies Down Under. Hull Truck’s premieres were each followed after three years by Hornchurch revivals – turning Ladies into Queen’s.
Jan has an appointment with back-packing Joe, not quite her partner; the other three just want a holiday. Whittington takes them from pure comedy in Manchester and Sydney airports plus the Australian tourist scene, towards more serious terrain, including Australia’s most iconic mountain and the perils of pitching tent in the outback.
The quartet returns to another kind of camp, with the bright lights of Sydney’s gay mardi gras. It’s a section that all but stops the drama to indulge theatrical jollity, but among the improbability there’s the touching recognition of the goodness in naively generous Linda. It takes Simon Jessop’s drag queen Koala Bare to recognise this, as he promotes her to honorary lesbian.
It’s the central section that tests the script. Hull Truck’s style doesn’t delve deep into characters. These are recognisable and we become acquainted with them, but never closely acquainted. Troubles behind the sociable surfaces are only glancingly revealed, in scenes where Mark Dymock’s lighting creates a night-time, enclosed atmosphere with Ken Telford’ outback projections suggesting remoteness from the tourist trail.
While the two men show versatility in a series of cameos, attention focuses on the four strong female performances in Matt Devitt’s production, which is witty and thoughtfully-detailed throughout, from its sensational bush-fire opening. Helen Watson gives Pearl a sense of inner life, while Diana Croft shows Jan coping with apparent desertion by Joe then reforming a relationship. Sarah Scowen keeps material girl, wannabe model Shelley this side of a figure of fun – rightly, as she ends having to make the biggest decision.
And Lucy Thackeray’s Linda, thin-voiced and seeming glad anyone will listen to her, captures vulnerable innocence, and joy when mardi gras takes her to its heart.
Jan: Diana Croft.
Joe/Bill/Charlie/Koala Bare: Simon Jessop.
Shelley: Sarah Scowen.
Tom/Ben/Shane/Danny/Bondi Bitch: Oliver Seymour-Marsh.
Linda: Lucy Thackeray.
Pearl: Helen Watson.
Director: Matt Devitt.
Designer: Claire Lyth.
Lighting: Mark Dymock.
Projections: Ken Telford.