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Ladies Down Under

Amanda Whittington
Hull Truck
York Theatre Royal and touring
(2008)

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In the sequel to Amanda Whittington's Ladies Day we follow the fortunes of four fish packers from Hull (or 'Ull') who won a packet on the races and are now following the dream of a life time by holidaying 'Down Under'. In the great land of Oz these four fearless ladies find there's more to life than money and fish factories. Indeed, as Pearl discovers, 'life is what happens when you are busy making other plans'.

With best friends Linda, Jan and Shelley, Pearl leads them on a trip to Australia to leave their lives at home behind and see new sights abroad. Not only do they travel to a new land but each lady begins to explore the undiscovered country within. At first fearful of flying and obsessed with her irritable bowel syndrome, Jan (Sue McCormick) finds that she is not restricted by her 'mumsy' image any longer and discovers passion in the middle of the bush. Gullible but good hearted Linda (Lucy Beaumont) struggles with the burden that her new found fortunes bring her, but finally finds her feet in the middle of the Sydney Mardi Gras. Brassy Shelley (Jemma Walker) has frittered away her money on designer clothes and clubbing, only to come to the realisation that she is left with nothing but an empty life. When kindly Aussie Mick (Damien Warren-Smith) makes her face her fears she begins to accept that 'living the dream' is not necessarily those advertised in magazines.

As with Ladies Day much of the story line revolves around Pearl but to describe her personal moment of epiphany here would all too easily reveal the plot. While Whittington takes a light hearted look at changing moments in these people's lives, much of the play is fairly predictable and fails to challenge many of your preconceptions. There is a litany of Australian stereotypes played by Warren-Smith, including a quasi religious surfer dude, crocodile Dundee-esque Mick, a camp air steward and finally a bitchy Sydney drag queen. Pantomime favourite Martin Barrass plays Joe, Jan's boyfriend, among others characters such as a doped up and washed out old beach bum, another camp air steward and a fantastically dressed drag queen 'Koala Bare' (however he doesn't seem to be able to manage the Australian accent).

While this may not be a ground breaking piece, it will please the casual theatre goer by pretty much doing 'exactly what it says on the tin', as it were. With a thumping sound track and a few Kylie references Whittington and director Gareth Tudor Price camp it up Down Under. Richard Foxton's practical, if underwhelming, set facilitates this. A simple, lightly comedic but utterly predictable night out, with cliché filled performances. Only Beaumont stands out for her understated and suitably naïve portrayal of Linda.

Reviewer: Cecily Boys