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Take a bow, ladies, but keep those hats on

Ladies’ Day, Talisman Theatre, Kenilworth, until Saturday March 11.

It was the year that Royal Ascot moved to York and the ‘fishwives’ went to Ladies’ Day.

They swapped their peaked hair nets for fancy hats, discovered that home-made cheese and pickle sandwiches go rather well with champagne, and picking winners is more fun than filleting haddock. For a while at least.

As the play goes on, we learn more about the back-stories of hitherto stereotypical working-class lasses from Hull. Rather sad stories, for the most part, although Amanda Whittington’s script is packed with warm, sometimes witty one-liners.

Under Graham Buckingham-Underhill’s direction, they’re delivered with subtlety as well as gusto by a predominantly female cast. Take a bow, ladies- if you can keep those hats on.

Leigh Walker captures the brittleness as well as the brashness of Shelley, on the make but never going to make it. Caroline McCluskey plays Jan, a woman seemingly obsessed with food (as long as there are no fish dishes) whose life will soon become even emptier when her daughter departs for “uni”.

Kathy Buckingham-Underhill brings a touching poignancy to the role of Pearl, searching for a lost lover while contemplating early retirement with a dull husband in a caravan at Cleethorpes.

Last but not least, Emma Searles gives a convincing portrayal of Linda, a hitherto dowdy and downtrodden woman who finds an inner strength after a chance meeting with an Irish jockey.

The jockey is played by Ian Stares. So is every other male part. There are six in all. That’s a hell of a lot of words to remember. Some characters work better than others and a little more projection would have been welcome.

Still, that didn’t detract too much from an otherwise enjoyable evening in which a typical slice of Hull Truck Theatre made a triumphant transfer to Kenilworth.

PICTURE: left to right, Leigh Walker, Emma Searles, Caroline McCluskey and Kathy Buckingham-Underhill.

Winner!