Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

G'day for the Sheilas, sport!

Ladies Down Under

Grange Players

Grange Playhouse, Walsall


AMANDA Whittington's bitter-sweet comedy – more sweet than bitter, and splendidly drawn – finds Paul Viles's production moving unflaggingly throughout, an achievement in which it is cleverly supported by its shorthand approach to its scenery.

There are no cumbersome sets to be moved – just a succession of framed pictures, painted by Francis Williams and displayed and taken away in matching pairs which give just the necessary suggestion of a setting. Clever – and it has the additional bonus of keeping us intrigued while we wonder how many more will be revealed so expeditiously. 

The play is the sequel to Ladies' Day, presented by the Players in March 2008, and it finds the same four friends from a Hull fish-filleting factory – only this time they are in Australia, intent on spending some of the fortune that they won at Royal Ascot in the year that it was held in York. 

They are a lively, likeable lot – though there is the occasional sigh prompted by the loud, selfish and tarty behaviour to which Shelley (Kate Rock) is prone. Yes, there's a heart of gold underneath, but she is very good at keeping us a bit on edge until it surfaces. 


There is Jan (Rosemary Manjunath), who had been hoping to meet Joe, the boyfriend who has previously left England for a 12-month trip around Australia. It's long odds against her catching up with him  – Australia provides plenty of space for failing to find him – but it would be unkind to be surprised that she succeeds, because Joe (Gary Pritchard) has, like Jan, much to contribute to an engaging production.

The play needs him. Moreover, there are other Pritchard faces that score points for excellent effectiveness – notably as the aging hippy Charlie and as the slinky drag queen Koala Bare. 

David Hayward also appears in various guises but it is his Bondi Bitch who finds him sharing those amusing moments in outrageous hats and glitter-sprinkled dresses as the twin in-your-face frontispieces of the Mardi Gras carnival. It is a celebration that enables the shy, wildly generous Linda (Aimée Hall) to come spiritedly out of the shell in which she has hidden so appealingly for the rest of the women's Antipodean adventure. 

It is Pearl (Sandra Haynes) who is the one with the secret – a secret she finally shares with unwavering dignity. This is a performance of stature and credibility, giving the necessary weight to a play that would otherwise have been in danger of being all froth and no substance – and that would have been a shame, given the spirited commitment it has been shown by everyone involved in it. To 20.3.10.

John Slim

Box Office: 01922 649168

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