Review: Ladies in Lavender

Ladies in Lavender
by Shaun McKenna

The second play of the Retford Little Theatre’s long awaited 80th season is Ladies in Lavender by Shaun McKenna.

This heart warming and gentle play concerns itself with two Cornish sister spinsters, Janet and Ursula, who are living out their lives in pre-Second World War Cornwall, knitting, listening to the radio and enjoying their coastal view. This existence is shaken up when they find a body washed up on the shore outside their home. After discovering the body is in fact a living man, they tenderly nurse him back to health, discovering in time that he is a Polish violinist by the name of Andrea Marowski.

I thought that the parts of the sisters Janet and Ursula played by experienced RLT performers Lesley Warburton and Sheila Eyre were tricky ones; they had to show their gentle, caring nature alongside their desire to hold on to this stranger for themselves. Their relationship with Andrea was complicated and I imagine difficult to portray. For me, they did this expertly and allowed the audience to pick up on the many subtle nuances between these central characters. There were wonderful moments of humour, cleverly delivered by both actresses as well as extremely tender and moving ones such as when Ursula realises that Andrea must move on.

One of my favourite characters was Dorcas, played by the hilarious Tricia Hill. Her comic timing, Cornish accent and bemused expressions were second to none. Her view on the whole situation was uncomplicated, a little harsh and added flashes of colour and comedy at the perfect moments.

Callum Gorwood made his debut on the RLT stage as Andrea but you would never tell. He played the part with such care and thoughtfulness. His relationship with the ladies was believable and it was wonderful to watch his journey from an invalid who can barely speak English to his excitement at being selected to play with one of his musical heroes. A confident performance.

Emma Colclough who played Olga Danilof, the Russian artist who spots Andrea’s talent, is also a newcomer to the RLT and again, a confident and convincing performance. The doctor played by Peter Thomas is another interesting part as he pursues Olga all summer only to find himself jealous of Andrea. A part well played by Peter. Together this was a strong cast who gently weave this tale of kindness to strangers and missed love.

The production elements were a particular highlight for me; the music and voice overs, the natural, soft lighting and the beautiful set – what a set! Credit to Andy Massey for painting such an idyllic backdrop. The way Ian Mather, the producer, designed the stage areas of bedroom, living room, garden and beach was clever and a lovely feast for the eyes. The props and furnishings were so fitting of the time, especially the authentic radio. Well done to all the set building team and technical crew for achieving such a pleasing and slick design. My only bug bear is that some key moments were a little lost behind downstage furniture, I wanted to jump on stage and move it out of the way!

Overall, I felt in very safe hands with the cast and crew and enjoyed a pleasant evening watching this lovely tale unfold. Well done to all involved.