In 2005, Ascot racecourse closed for a multi-million pound redevelopment and the Royal Ascot meeting was transferred to York. Amanda Whittington drew on that event for this sparkling comedy. It tells the story of four fish factory workers who, on the spur of the moment decide to celebrate one of the quartets’ last day with the firm with an all-girl outing to Ladies Day.
Naively, they had neither anticipated the difficulty of obtaining tickets for the event (they had sold out months ago), nor the price of obtaining them from ticket touts outside the course and it was a lucky find of lost tickets by one of their members that eventually enabled them to get through the gates.
Director Maggie Smith was blessed with a superb ladies cast, each of whom created delightfully contrasting characters who retained north-country accents throughout.
Sandra Miall as Pearl, the more level-headed member of the group, mothered the others through problems and disappointments of the day whilst at the same time ensuring that the champagne continued to flow freely, finally revealing a secret affair with a bookie that she hoped to re-ignite; Melanie Sherwood gave the best drunk performance seen on stage at Shinfield for some time as Jo, the worrier; Amy Spiller, the up-front Shelly aspired for a life above her station where she could make good use of her brassy, feminine charms and Sharon Wakefield as the mousey Linda found comfort both in the music of Tony Christie and in a friendly interlude with one of the hungry jockeys.
The male roles in this play were originally written for performance by a single actor. In this production Dan Walford competently played four of them: the kindly factory supervisor, the ticket tout, the jockey and the bookie who danced a poignant last waltz with Pearl. David Lawton was a look-alike television commentator.
The simple set complemented the comedy and pathos of the piece as it built up to a crescendo back at the fish factory when, after disappointment the previous day when the last horse of their accumulator bet only managed to come in second, the girls found that, following a steward’s enquiry, they had hit the jackpot after all!