‘Daisy pulls it off’ won for its playwright, Denise Deegan, an ‘Olivier Award’ and the ‘Drama Theatre Award for best comedy’. The play, which is a subtle blend of ‘St Trinians’ and ‘The Secret Seven’, had its original production run for almost 1,200 performances in London’s West End. Denise then went on to write ‘The Butterfly Novels’ – a series about three, Dublin teenaged school friends. A new book due next year.
Denise was born in London three-score years ago, and although trained in theatre teching and stage management, she now lives in North Wales finding joy as a Morris Dancer and part of the Brecon Hills search and rescue team.
This melodramatic parody ‘for all the family’ has just started its run at the Old Mill Theatre, on the corner of Mends Street and Mill Point Road in South Perth. The two and a half hour performances start at 8.00 pm nightly until the 10th December. There is one matinee on Sunday 4th December at 2.00 pm.
It is the early 1930’s in England, and the gutsy Daisy Meredith (Zoe Cole) has just won a scholarship for the exclusive Grangewood School for Young Ladies. It means leaving her poverty stricken, widowed mother (Seanne Brookes) and four brothers in Wales and joining the numerous, wealthy girl boarders who are the offspring of the upper class. On the train journey to her new life, Daisy meets Claire Beaumont (Rebekah Easton) whose family actually owns the school building, but is now on the verge of bankruptcy and may have to sell these exclusive school grounds.
Daisy is welcomed at Grangewood by the kindly Miss Gibson (Anna Peluso), whose idea it was for the school to sponsor a less-fortunate child.
It is not long before the dirty pranks and jibes of her wealthier peers, Sybil (Zoe Griffin) and her bounder of a friend, Monica (Tallulah Starkie), are inflicted upon the unfortunate Daisy. With only one real, but wacky friend, Trixie Martin (Sian Chin) things at the school start problematically. The fourth form prefect, Belinda (Caitlin Perez) tries to help, but the evil power of Sybil is difficult to break. Daisy soon becomes the pet of the Bolshevik, music teacher (David Champion) as he takes them through the dreaded, school music handbook.
Will the two quiet girls, Winnie (Tahlia Norrish) and Dora (Rebecca Bentley), in the back of the class win the prize for the headmistress, Miss Granville’s (Anne Speicher), poetry competition?
Who is the mystifyingly shy ground’s man (Peter Bloor)? A Flash Harry-like stranger who wanders around whistling the same tune.
This style of melodrama depends upon slightly hamming-it-up, and the director, Susan Lynch and her capable assistant, Mary Wolfla, they have created just the right level. Combined with the marble-in-the-mouth accents of the gentry, taught by Laura Djanegara, the effect is hilarious.
With most of the cast being still at school, or early university, and fairly new to the stage, the director still managed to get good movement, stage presence and comedic delivery from the girls. Congratulations to all.
The delightfully, twee script has every well-worn catch phrase from the era, woven cleverly into the dialogue. The older audience members will cringe at the headmistress’s stern and matronly manner, such as the admonishment for having ink blots in your exercise book, when only dipping ink pens were available.
Dorm midnight feasts, with oodles of iced buns are all incorporated into this lively, wholesome adventure.
The main set of the school hall was very impressive. Kristina Binks and her team ensured the minor set changes went smoothly, with a few well-chosen props to set the scene. Siobhan O’Gara’s sound teching was very good. The lighting was controlled smoothly, but I would like to have seen a great deal more picking out of the stage areas that were being employed for different locations, rather than the full floods being left on. The lighting was very effective at the rescue scene, just more of the same please. Jenny Prosser’s costumes, school uniforms and bottle green stockings brought a smile.
Be sure to join in with the school anthem at the end. As Trixie would say, ‘jubilare’ and you will have an absolutely spiffing time with lashings of laughs.
A bold and brash musical – with big hearts and beehives – will make Limelight Theatre’s stage come alive this June.