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Ladies Down Under – Hornchurch

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
For this new production of Amanda Whittington’s Ladies Down Under, director Matt Devitt has reunited four of the actors who played in last year’s Ladies’ Day. Diana Croft joins the cast as Jan, slightly in a state of dither as she faces her reunion with Joe on the other side of the world, and Oliver Seymour-Marsh has five male roles – well, four including bush-ranger Danny and a turn as a bitch of a drag queen.

One feels for Jan, but the heart of the play (as in its predecessor) is Pearl. Helen Watson makes her the still centre of the drama, cajoling a semblance of proper reaction to this new country and all its strangeness from her friends until the moment comes when she can reveal her own reason for promoting the trip.

Linda is played by Lucy Thackeray with the right air of naïve purpose; other people may impose on her generosity but she keeps to her own agenda when it matters. Shelley, that brash queen of retail therapy, is a gift of a part and one which Sarah Scowen seizes voraciously. Simon Jessop is Joe, the aging beach-bum Charlie and an outrageously camp queen bee of the Sydney Gay pride carnival. Both he and Seymour-Marsh have great fun with the cabin crew’s routines.

Designer Claire Lyth has created a set with great rust-trunked trees framing a succession of projections (Alex Broad) which guide us from airport to beach to the outback and so to the return journey as our four heroines learn that life has certain responsibilities even when you’ve won half a million pounds. There are happy endings for three of them while you sense that Pearl has the strength of character to bend her future into the shape she desires.


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