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posted/updated: 15 Jul 2015 - edit review / upload photos
Cheshire Cats
Gail Young
society/company: Plaza Theatre (Romsey Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society - RAODS) (directory)
performance date: 15 May 2015
venue: Plaza Theatre
reviewer/s: Bob Heather (Sardines review)

It had been a lovely day and I was looking forward to going to see an outside production that evening. As I made my way to the grounds of Linden House where RAODS were performing, the beautiful day had turned into a rather cloudy grey day - did I feel a spot of rain? This is typical for me and my outings to outdoor productions, but the rain didn’t come to anything even though it was a tad chillier than the few days preceding. The truth is that it could have poured down with rain or thrown a blizzard my way and I wouldn’t have cared a jot because once the play started, each member of the cast held me captive in the way they brought the script alive, to the point that I felt I was there with them throughout their journey.

This was my introduction to a play that I hadn’t heard of before. Cheshire Cats by Gail Young is all about a small group of women who decide to train together to enter the London Moonwalk. With aching feet and a single goal, the play follows the Cheshire Cats team as they speed-walk their way to fundraising success. Hilary, Siobhan, Yvonne, Vicky and Maggie are attempting to walk across the capital in their decorated bras, cat’s tails and posh new trainers, but the last-minute arrival of the 6th member of the team turns out to be a little different and not what was expected - will they get on, will it all work out? The topic of cancer doesn’t seem the ideal basis for a comedy, but the play has a wonderful blend of comic moments and poignant reminders - plenty of laughs and a few tears along the way.

Loud brash Hilary was excellently played by Georgette Ellison, who like a few other members of the cast have actually “walked the walk” and taken part in the moonwalk for real. Hilary was in charge and everyone knew it, but occasionally she let the audience into her deep self where they could witness her secret heartaches behind the bellowing voice. Hilary’s best friend (played by Kathrina Gwynne) was played equally as well as the kind hearted Siobhan, the chalk to Hilary’s cheese. Maggie (Becky Mills) with her bum-bag full of assorted plasters is new to all this, but there is a deep underlying reason she has got involved.

The sub-plot concerns Vicky, a newly divorced man-mad 40 something, looking for a younger man, was played with loads of sex appeal and steam by Clare Durham. In the absence of her sister, Vicky decides to bring her latest beau on the London trip – much to the horror of Yvonne, played with suitable venom and spot on comic timing by Danielle Fletcher, who apart from suffering with blisters throughout, is hoping for a man free weekend. Vicky and toy-boy Andrew proceed to prove her worst nightmare by draping themselves over each other for the whole journey.

Harry Andreou not only played Andrew with extreme conviction, but also took on two other roles that were so different to each other, you had a job to realise that they were played by the same actor; his fitness instructor had the women in the audience in hot flushes.

Along the journey, the girls’ lives unfold and, as each delivers a monologue in verse, our actors unveil their characters and draw us towards their inner beings.

Extra comedy was added by Ron and Madge who played the marshals. They also acted as the scene setters throughout the play and added lots of nice touches and visual comedy. Played by real life partners Colin Russell and Jane Hartley, they had the audience watching every move during the set changes, a feat not easily achieved.

The whole thing was very well put together by director Neil Gwynne, who bought the best out of everybody and everything, adding some nice touches throughout. The sound, designed by Nick Longland and operated by Barrie Wells, was brilliantly used to the point that there were always sound effects happening in the background, but so subtly that you didn’t realise, but it made all the difference - with the birds twittering in the park, the sounds of the London streets, and the rat-a-tat of the train during the journey, making the whole thing so realistic.

The lighting, operated by Chris Moses, which wasn’t in evidence during the first act because of the daylight, gave all the right ambience of the night time walk.

All in all this was a wonderful and well produced play with every cast member doing exactly what was expected of them.

In conclusion, those people that regularly read my reviews, know that I always pick a member of the cast which I think is worth watching out for, but in this case it is impossible to pick a single one of them, they were all fantastic.

I for one shall be going back to see this play again before the run is over.

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