Ladies Down Under – Theatre Review

LADIES Down Under, the second play in Amanda Whittington’s Ladies Trilogy, is the latest offering from the Woodley Theatre in Reading. Fun it is too as the four fish-filleters from Hull all confront personal issues on a trip to Australia. There’s plenty of music (Waltzing Matilda), singing, colour and humour to make the night a rewarding one despite the alternative fare on offer (World Cup football).

The four women at the heart of Whittington’s witty play – Jan, Linda, Peach, and Shelley – are off to the land down under. A bet on the horses came good and they’re determined to enjoy some of the £0.5million they won between themselves.

Although work binds them, they’re a disparate lot. Sarah Pearce’s Jan is lacking in confidence although she is meant to be meeting a man (Joe) on the other side of the world. It’s a minor miracle that she gets on the plane.

Jocelyn Robinson’s Pearl seems the most assured of the quartet, but she’s hiding a secret. Her in-built conservatism is challenged the longer she spends in Australia.

Susan Westgate’s Linda can’t deal with the money she has won and would rather give it away than spend it on herself. As the play develops and the ladies travel across Australia, she emerges from her chrysalis like a beautiful Red Admiral butterfly. Westgate shines.

Completing the travellers is Shelley (Melanie Sherwood), the most outrageous of them all. As we discover, she ain’t good with money and likes her men friends, none more so than the very young Aussie itinerant Danny (Matt Oxley). Chat up lines she possesses aplenty. Quite a cougar. Sherwood does a mighty good job of presenting Shelley as the outlier.

There are fallouts galore, post coital admissions and unlikely relationships formed. All ensure the play never fails to entertain.

Some scenes don’t quite work, others are infused with lashings of wit. The airline exchanges between the male and female air hostesses as the women wait to embark on their 36-hour journey across the globe are bound to make you laugh. As are outrageous Mardi Gras characters Bondi Bitch (Charley Caswell) and Koala Bare (Simon Legge) who ensure the girls leave Sydney in high spirits and with sore heads.

This am-dram production, directed by Frank Kaye, is rather good. Both the lighting (Graham Silvester) and music (Tony Windmill) are also eye and ear catching. It runs until December 3. Two hours of fun.


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