Breakaway Theatre Company returns with an enjoyable day at the races in Ladies' Day

Breakaway Theatre Company's production of Ladies' Day

Breakaway Theatre Company's production of Ladies' Day - Credit: Adrian Lucy

Deborah Heath reviews Breakaway Theatre Company's production of Ladies' Day at the Maltings Theatre in St Albans.

Breakaway Theatre Company's production of Ladies' Day

Breakaway Theatre Company's production of Ladies' Day - Credit: Adrian Lucy

I cannot start this review without a tribute to Breakaway stalwart Jill Hardman who recently passed away.

I have enjoyed her performances very much over the years and know how deeply she is missed by so many people.

Before lockdown Jill was directing this play and due to COVID and her own situation was sadly unable to see it performed.

It is testament to the respect Jill inspired and the tenacity of the Breakaway family that they relaunched Ladies' Day in her honour and made it their first production post-COVID.

Ladies' Day, by Amanda Whittington, is a comedy about four colleagues from a fish processing factory who make a once-in- a-lifetime trip to the races.

The comedy, which had shades of Victoria Wood, was an interesting mix of broad humour and pleasingly subtle character driven-moments.

Breakaway Theatre Company's production of Ladies' Day

Breakaway Theatre Company's production of Ladies' Day - Credit: Adrian Lucy

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I love multifunctional staging and was not disappointed in this show. The scenery consisted of four white boxes and three sets of white rails which represented a variety of settings from the fish factory to the royal enclosure.

Good use was made of the audience and auditorium too, which expanded the set further.

Part of me wanted them to engage more senses and have a temporary aroma of fish for the factory scenes but of course it would have lingered too long!

The ladies from Breakaway Theatre Company's production of Ladies' Day.

The ladies from Breakaway Theatre Company's production of Ladies' Day. - Credit: Breakaway Theatre Company

Our four leading ladies were an excellent team and were well supported by the three male cast members, Malcolm Coakley, David Martin and Graeme Shaw.

The ladies’ characters were well realised and energy levels high throughout. I loved watching Sam Newgrosh as Shelley who was a comedy natural.

Kathryn Hearn made Jan very easy to identify with. Furthermore, it is not easy playing drunk but she nailed it!

I don’t think I’ve ever seen Shelley Healy give such a good performance as she did as Linda, the baby of the bunch. Her innocence was charming and therefore her bawdy scene with jockey Patrick (Coakley) was a joy to watch.

It is always hard to play a character who drives the plot but isn’t given so many comedy moments. In Ladies' Day this is Pearl; the patient organiser with a dark secret. I would like to commend Margie Skinner for her strong portrayal of the role.

Jan (Kathryn Hearn), Pearl (Margie Skinner), Linda (Shelley Healy) and Shelley (Sam Newgrosh) from Ladies' Day.

Jan (Kathryn Hearn), Pearl (Margie Skinner), Linda (Shelley Healy) and Shelley (Sam Newgrosh) from Breakaway Theatre Company's production of Ladies' Day. - Credit: Breakaway Theatre Company

Co-directors Jo Baker and Lesley Cowland did a fantastic job of realising Jill Hardman’s original vision.

The auditorium was packed and reverberated with laughter throughout the show.

This was a really strong return from Breakaway and I am looking forward to their open-air production at the Inn on The Park from August 4-6.

Open auditions: Sunday, May 29 from 2pm-4pm, and Monday, May 30 from 8-10pm. Please email breakawaytheatre@gmail.com or find on Facebook for more details.