Ladies in Retirement
by Edward Percy and Reginald Denham
Ladies in Retirement by Edward Percy and Reginald Denham is a gothic thriller written in 1939 and set in 1885.
I must start by talking about the design elements of the production as these were outstanding. First, the lighting, which was both subtle and dramatic at just the right moments. Stephen Walker managed to create states which transported us to a Dickensian country house, whether it be daylight, dusk, autumn, or spring. I really appreciated the lovely light from the window, which also managed to be sinister at times of tension. There were some perfect moments; the gradual turning out of the oil lamps, leaving eerie shadows just before the climax, was one.
Then the set; it was fantastic! The attention to detail in depicting this pre-Tudor building was well appreciated by the audience who applauded enthusiastically on curtain up. The positioning of the furniture was a lesson in staging as this allowed flawless movement and visually pleasing moments from the actors. Along with the sound design (I particularly liked the piano music gradually being mixed with a more menacing underscore), costumes and props, this was a feast for the eyes and ears.
Bringing this wonderful design to life was the cast who did such a great job at what I thought was a challenging piece. Lucy the maid was played by first timer to the RLT stage, Laura Kent and she portrayed the naïve and sometimes brazen characteristics with believability and spirit. Lesley Warburton was perfectly cast as Leonora Fiske. She was confident and commanding, creating a flamboyant contrast to the stark Ellen Creed. Ellen was played by Millie Satchell who was excellently able to administer both fear and sympathy in the audience and I was impressed with her build up to an emotional release towards the end of the play. Ellen’s two simple sisters, Louisa and Emily, were played wonderfully by Keri Duffy and Gaby Hardwick, adding a light touch of humour which only added to the sinister plot. Shane Lale did a great job as light-fingered thief come detective, Albert Feather. I was also impressed with newcomer Bryony Wood as Sister Theresa, a confident debut on the RLT stage.
A huge well done to Producer David Cox for creating and designing this chilling piece of classic theatre.