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Newbury Dramatic Society - Ladies' Day

4th April and 7th to 9th May 2009.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Pulling in the punters

Newbury Dramatic Society: Ladies Day, at New Greenham Arts, from Thursday, May 7 to Saturday, May 9

Amanda Whittington's play is rightly billed as a comedy and as the four main characters opened the performance by marching on in outfits reminiscent of Victoria Wood's Dinner Ladies TV series, the audience prepared for a laughter-packed evening.

Laughter there is, but each character has problems which influenced the action as the play continued.

Pearl, one of four Hull fish-packing women and about to leave the firm, has 'one dream left in her pocket' - to go to the annual Ladies' Race Day, held at York in 2005. What she doesn't tell her mates is that she's hoping to find Barry, a lover of seven years, who failed to turn up at their weekly rendezvous.

Young Shelley, dreaming of champagne and a wealthy man to solve her money problems, is well up for it and naive Linda, ardent fan of Tony Christie, becomes keen to go along when told her idol may be there. The reluctant Jan, living her life through daughter Clare, is eventually persuaded to join them bringing, to Shelley's disgust, cheese and pickle sandwiches for a picnic.

In the best scene of the evening the four do a clever, slick Monty-ish transformation, stripping off the fish-packing outfits to emerge behatted and bedecked, ready for the off.

Excellent actresses are required and they were firmly in place. Jane Minchin (Pearl), Sylvia Knight, magnificent as Jan, Zandra Forder (Shelley) and Caroline Tripp (Linda) deftly brought their characters to life, maintaining accents and nicely judging both pathos and comedy. Without a horse in sight, they created the atmosphere of the race day which eventually solved all their problems.

There were one or two places in the first half where the impetus dragged a little, but the pace picked up as the races continued.

Mike Cole alternated admirably between factory worker Joe and racing pundit Jim, and in a particularly enjoyable scene with Caroline Tripp, Shaun Blake captured the mood of disillusioned jockey, Patrick, yearning for food.

A well-chosen play, Newbury Dramatic Society's latest choice is one for which all involved, and director Fenella Newton in particular, deserve congratulations.