by Nichola McAuliffe.
Queen’s Theatre, to 7 May
Billet Lane, Hornchurch RM11 1QT to 7 May 2016.
Tues – Sat 8pm. Mat Sat 30 April 2.30pm.
Runs 1hr 45 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 01708 443333
Review: William Russell 20 April.
Raucous, rough, ready and funny farce
The events in Nichola McAuliffe’s play take place in a gym somewhere in south London attended by a group of women and are based on her own experiences attending fitness classes. The gym, which is in a rundown state, has been acquired by Stella Silver (McAuliffe) a retired solder embarking on a career in Civvy Street.
It is a desirable site and developers are both seeking to acquire to build the inevitable luxury flats and putting all sorts of obstacles in her way of making a success of the enterprise – like stealing lead from the roof, damaging pipes and so on.
The women are a mixed bunch. A posh battered wife (Carol Sloman) slumming it for reasons we eventually find out, a tough talking widow with a shady background (Pauline Daniels revelling in the chance to speak her mind), a Jewish girl with connections in the fashion world (Kim Ismay) , a girl with a weight problem (Suzanna Bygrave) , a lady in a veil from somewhere Islamic (Susan Aderin) and Stella’s useless assistant Doucette, who paints her nails rather than do any work, nicely done by Houmi Miura.
How will they save the day? They raise a petition, bake cakes and put on a display of their exercise skills. It is somewhat too reminiscent of Richard Harris’s Stepping Out in which we saw a class learning to tap dance, but that was some 25 years ago so no matter.
The splendid Peter Straker lurks around as Franklyn, an ageing barrow boy who has been kicked out by his wife and stores his fruit barrow in the gym. It is arguably a work in progress and might tour quite successfully here and there or, if there are still such things, do a summer season at a resort with a pier but nearer the heart of London would seem unlikely.
The cast are good, Ms McAuliffe leads them in fine athletic style – she does the splits at one point – and has a lovely drunk scene with Mr Straker knocking back hotel fridge miniatures. At the end, when all is somewhat implausibly well, we get the show with Mr Straker leading les girls in a production number to the delight of the audience who are invited to rise and shine – and duly did the night I was there.
Assieh: Susan Aderin.
Violet: Suzanna Bygrave.
Cerise: Pauline Daniels.
Lysette: Kim Ismay.
Stella: Nichola McAuliffe.
Doucette: Houmi Miura.
Casey: Carol Sloman.
Franklyn: Peter Straker.
Voice of radio presenter: Christopher Biggins.
Director: Glen Walford.
Designer: Any Yardley.
Musical Director: Carol Sloman.
Lighting Designer: Mark Jonathan.
Sound Designer: Dan Crews.
Exercise Consultant: Karen Simler.