Ladies Down Under fails to hit heights

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Following the success last year of Amanda Whittington’s ‘Ladies Day’, Too Friendly Theatre Company chose sequel “Ladies Down Under” for their autumn production.

The story continues with the fish filleters from Liverpool – Pearl, Jan, Shelley and Linda – going off to spend winnings from their day at the races on a trip to Australia.

Leader of the gang Pearl (Helen Haygarth) is keen to have a wild time, even to the extent of smoking ‘funny cigarettes’ but Pearl has a secret.

Jan (Tracey Holmes-Smith) is disappointed Joe (Rob Darby), her old factory foreman, is not there to meet her at the airport as promised. Will he turn up?

Shelley (Chloe Hughes) spends and spends until there is nothing left before realising money hasn’t brought the happiness she craved. Maybe new friend Danny (Cliff Gillies) has the answer.

Linda (Joanne Wasilew) is guilty at being one of “the haves” but finds salvation at Sydney’s Gay Mardi Gras.

How many of them will return to Liverpool?

Director Cliff Gillies, along with Peter Roney and Rob Darby, turn up as various stock Aussies and Cliff and Mark Haygarth did an amusing double act as gay plane stewards, misinterpreting safety precautions (Mark was in his element later as a Drag Queen at Mardi Gras, singing a Kylie number which had the audience clapping along – a spectacle to behold).

The actors from ‘Ladies Day’ played the same parts in ‘Ladies Down Under’ but like most TV series which start brilliantly the second never quite hits the same heights.

I do not understand why the Civic Hall stage wasn’t used, which would have been more appropriate than the bare, makeshift blocks in the centre of the hall, the audience bunched towards the back making it difficult to see and hear.

Yet again, though, Too Friendly Theatre Company, winners in this year’s Preston One Act Play Festival, show they have a wealth of talent and deserve bigger audiences than they achieved here.

Ellen Campbell