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Review: Ladies Day/Royal Court

New artistic director Ken Alexander delivers a tragi-comedy that's a favourite to win, says Peter Grant

Written by . Published on June 22nd 2013.

Review: Ladies Day/Royal Court

THE Royal Court are brilliant at publicity. When you see one of their flyers or posters you know exactly what to expect from the show to come. It does what it says on the theatrical tin. But with Ladies Day,  that photograph of four overexcited women ready for a day at the races doesn't wholly reflect the play.

You would expect a couple of hours of raucous scouse wit and whimsy, but no.

Pearl’s tales of secret trysts at the Adelphi Hotel have real poignance with Eithne Browne delivering a performance highlighting her trademark balance of light and shade -  fun and sensitivity

First performed in 2006 from the stable of excellence called Hull Truck, the Royal  Court has been given permission to develop writer Amanda Whittington's play.

Play? Tragi-comedy in fact.

Director Ken Alexander's first production in the saddle since he became the Court’s artistic director is an apt and timely choice, opening in Royal Ascot week.

There are, of course, plenty  of one- liners from these four factory workers who deliver observations in conveyor-belt style reminiscent of Victoria Woods' sit com Dinner Ladies.

Ladies Day 12
There's Pearl (Eithne Browne), hip-flask swigging Jan (Lynn Francis), sexy Shelley (Emmerdale’s Roxanne Pallett) and impressionable Linda (Angela Simms).

The stallion in the line up is Jack Lord who plays Joe, Fred, Jim, Patrick, Kevin and Barry. Phew.

It opens with  the four chattering away in the factory, musing over the forthcoming Grand National and they decide it's time to put on their glad rags and head for Aintree. They deserve it.

Our four central runners are as different as the clothes they wear for their big day out.

The ever-reliable, multi-tasking Court stalwart, Eithne Browne, provides real gravitas: Pearl is a kind of mother-hen to her pals.

In her revealing blue designer outfit, vivacious WAG Shelley gets many things off her chest, so to speak, as she tries to hog the Channel 4 cameras in her own X-Factor bid.

Jan uses her props - a hip flask and bag of sarnies - to great comic effect, while impressionable Linda provides the  innocence as she looks for guidance in love from her older colleagues.

The uncluttered set by by Richard Foxton features a few hedges, bookie signposts and a backdrop of a racecourse. It  does the job.

And set in 2005, we are treated - or should that be mis-treated - to sporadic snippets from the Tony Christie back-catalogue.  Yes,  we do know the way to Amarillo.

Ladies Day 8Ladies Day 8Once outside Aintree our four local heroines encounter the first one hurdle:  they haven't actually got tickets.

A seedy tout is no help as our girls - dressed to the nines - contemplate their plight.

And then a purse is found with four admission passes to the great event. No moral dilemma. And they're off. Sorted.

Once inside, the champagne-guzzling begins as we discover the lives of our front-runners.

We encounter a spiv-like bookie, and a jolly jockey. But this is Ladies Day where the four’s individual stories are eventually-unravellled, each woman's emotional baggage as markedly different as the clothes each wears.

Ladies Day 2
There's a love story; a tale of lost dreams of stardom; a touching look at overcoming shyness and also the perils of over-imbibing the hard hard stuff.

Pearl’s tales of secret trysts at the Adelphi Hotel have real poignance with Ms Browne delivering a performance highlighting her trademark balance of light and shade -  fun and sensitivity. Meanwhile Jan's drunken rants cue  the most laughs in some welcome slapstick.

Many plot lines, however, are telegraphed throughout and as we cheer on their collective bet on a horse called Broken Dreams, you don't need Clare Balding to give a running commentary on the result.

The are some individual monologues that are like rider-less horses going nowhere and one sequence where we are treated to racing facts is a bit of a non- starter.

After all, the Grand National is a functional backdrop:  this could have been called Cup Final Day or Four Women and The Boat Race.


Ladies Day 3 

Ladies Day offers more than the observations of four letting- their-hair-down females that enticingly feature on the sparkling promotional material. It is ultimately a feel good play and an interesting departure for Royal Court programming.

 The  final sprint to the finishing post won't disappoint the loyal, supportive Royal Court audiences.


*Ladies Day continues until July 14.

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Peter Coyle

i wish i had been there…it sounds like something joyous and anarchic...the way the article is…

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Couldn't agree more. This is a super piece. Ken would be proud that not a penny of public money was…

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Reader Xxx

The review was indeed brilliant - congratulations Angie. The show must have been very special -…

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Claudia Boulton

Thanks Angie for your brilliant piece, so glad you wrote it! Now i know what was going on! Being in…

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