Daisy Pulls It Off

Denise Deegan

Watermill Theatre Newbury

(2010)

Review by Robin Strapp

The Government's radical educational policy is to extend power to schools and encourage parents to set up their own educational establishments and create academies in order to improve standards. A far cry from the halcyon days of the elite private Grangewood School for Girls in 1927 when bright girls from less privileged backgrounds could win a scholarship from state elementary schools and be given the opportunity to experience the advantages of a public school education.

The Watermill Theatre's absolutely spiffing production of Daisy Pulls It Off perfectly captures the spirit of the era with a beautifully designed set by Chloe Lamford that oozes with the history of Grangewood with oak panelling, honour boards and Spartan classrooms atmospherically lit by Philip Gladwell.

Daisy Meredith, wonderfully played by Emerald O'Hanrahan (an actress to watch out for in the future), blends naïve innocence with a true sense of fairness and honour and is the first scholarship girl to gain access to Grangewood, looking forward to learning Latin and Greek and participating in all the joys of boarding school life.

She is befriended by Trixie Martin - an enthusiastic, fervent and convincing performance by Rosie Jones - who turns out to be the 'dormy mate' of Daisy. They instantly bond with each other and plan pranks, look forward to midnight feasts, inter-dorm hot botty fights and form a secret society determined to find the Beaumont family's missing treasure.

But not everyone is keen to have a scholarship 'gal' in their midst with the class rotters, the pretentious snob and ' prickly pear' Sybil Burlington (Amy Downham) and the sycophant Monica (Jaimi Barbakoff), determined to make life difficult for Daisy. They implicate her in cheating for a geography exam, accuse her of being a sneak and do their utmost to get her expelled.

Head Girl Claire, a strong delightful performance from Holly Goss who encourages the younger girls to ' buck up, kiddies', and Scottish hockey fanatic Alice (Alice Brown) sporting wounds from their final match, were a sheer delight.

Rosalind Steele confidently playing Belinda, the form captain, played the vibrant music score by Paul Herbert and even at the piano she acted her heart out, superb.

The adult parts with Elizabeth Marsh as the Head and form mistress and Robert Maskell as the mysterious Russian teacher, Mr Scoblowski, and a French mistress were spot on.

As with all good yarns it has a happy ending. The treasure is found and the gardener turns out to be Daisy's long-lost father. Bravo!

This was wonderful 'top hole' production, full of fun and thoroughly enjoyable. Directed with verve and confidence by Caroline Leslie this is one summer production that's not to be missed. Jubilate!

Runs till 10th July