LADIES IN LAVENDER
adapted by Shaun McKenna from the screenplay by Charles Dance based on a story by William J Locke.
Tour to 7 July 2012.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 14 May at Oxford Playhouse.
Slow as the tide but beautifully produced.
Two foreigners with Eastern European accents on the same Cornish beach in 1937? “I reckon he’s a spy,” one audience member told his companion at the interval. “No,” she replied, “it’s not the sort of play where that happens.”
It’s not the sort of play where anything much happens. The two young foreigners act in concert, but it’s neither love nor politics uniting them. Yet they awaken desire in their elders among the locals.
The dependable doctor’s passion for young Olga never goes beyond the chaste offer of his lunchtime sandwich. Sisters Ursula and Janet, locals for 40 years, enjoying a classical concert on the wireless and going about a daily routine, have contended with nothing more disturbing than their woman-what-does Dorcas.
Though Dorcas could raise a storm or two in Carol Macready’s redoubtable incarnation; her every entrance breathes a sense of day-long manual work and uninhibitedly frank expression. Ultimately, though, her hard-edged practicality softens into smiles and understanding.
And the sisters are finely nuanced, Belinda Lang’s Janet practical and brisk, Hayley Mills’ Ursula dreamier and kindly. In this state she falls for the young foreign lad thrown up by a sea-storm, echoing Hans Andersen’s Little Mermaid, the story Ursula reads him as he lies injured in bed. His taking this book when he leaves is the nearest matters come to any reciprocation for Ursula’s love. Seemingly a new passion for her, she responds with naïve expectation, while developing a steelier insistence.
Other performances are adequate without reaching the depth of these three. Liz Ascroft’s set atmospherically expresses the cosiness of the sisters’ house, plus the landscape around, lit in its various moods by Mick Hughes.
What little happens is signed way ahead by the script, with Robin Lefevre’s direction ensuring the slow movement is achieved without any false tricks, while the loss war brings is clearly noted.
Clearly this has its audience. It might thrive on a diet of midweek matinees, for a play that treats the desires of the pensionable generation seriously and realistically doesn’t come along often. Certainly not with this gold-plated playing of the central characters.
Ursula: Hayley Mills.
Janet: Belinda Lang.
Dr Mead: RobertDuncan.
Dorcas: Carol Macready.
Andrea: Robert Rees.
Olga: Abigail Thaw.
Director: Robin Lefevre.
Designer: Liz Ascroft.
Lighting: Mick Hughes.
Sound: John Leonard.
Music: Nigel Hess.
Dialect coach: Majella Hurley.
Music coach: Edgar Bailey.