23 March – 1 April 2017, The Playhouse, Hastings
Comedy is timing and Theatre HB latest Ladies’ Day is on beat and tight in its delivery. Laughs come easily, but there’s also a poignancy here and some tough themes carefully nurtured and teased out.
The jokes are lubricated with heavy Yorkshire accents and it’s that delivery that brings the laughs. Good writing, although hackneyed in places, takes the gag 40% of the way, it’s the acting – and that sluggish, whiny dialect – that seals the deal.
It’s only when the tone moves from comedy to poignancy that some of the dialect training overrides the writing and threatens to upstage. The accent dominates and it’s a struggle to see the beauty in some of the more straight moments. This is the one weakness in an otherwise tremendous piece.
Much of the cast is familiar from last year’s marvelous Motel. Neil McCorkell takes the five male parts and shines in them all, shifting gear, accent, mannerisms and stance effortlessly. This piece is, in many ways, a collection of two-handers with McCorkell moving from one mood and partner to the next, like a schizophrenic at a speed dating night.
Minimal yet clever scenery gives a sense of place without upstaging. Costuming is hilarious. Use of the fourth wall is ingenious but never overdone.
There are some underlying themes at play here certainly. Although to say a British play has a subtext of entrapment by class system is perhaps a truism. All the characters are trapped in some way, and each is relying on sheer luck and huge odds to free them. But overall Ladies’ Day is simply good fun with a “Bravo!” happy ending.