Richard Fitt reviews Cheshire Cats

Cheshire Cats
by Gail Young
performed by Waterbeach Theatre Company
directed by Wendy Croft

As guest reviewer for D4 South a visit to Waterbeach Community Primary School to see Gail Young's Cheshire Cats turned out be a very high quality and entertaining evening indeed.

Cheshire Cats tells the story of five women and one man who go down to London from the North West to take part in the famous annual Moon Walk to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research. First brought to prominence in 2006 when it was taken to the Edinburgh Fringe by the Guilden Sutton Players, where it was a resounding success it has since been translated into many different languages and performed all over the World and used as a fund raiser for various breast cancer charities.

The set by Mark Easterfield was a painted backdrop for each of the four scenes, a sky for the country park, a signboard saying Chester Railway station and an absolutely superb silhouette of the London skyline, showing Tower Bridge, St Pauls, The Shard, The Gherkin and the London Eye. What was really clever about it was the gradually changing lighting as we went through the night. Extremely clever! All that was needed for furniture was simply depicted by very appropriate use of chairs. Four set together as a park bench, sets laid out as seats in a railway carriage and a three as a bench on the station platform. With a nod to the breast cancer cause they had pink stretched covers over them. Stage Manager Cath Langridge and her well drilled crew set each scene with perfect efficiency.

Joy Sinclair put together a set of wonderfully matching cat outfits, complete with outer black bras fringed with pink feathers for the ladies and Andrew, the sixth member of the team, which contrasted rather comically with the outfits. Ron. the fitness instructor appeared on stage wearing a bright, predominantly green and yellow leotard complete with pink bra! Well, it brought a smile to my face.

Lighting (Mark Easterfield again) was particularly well thought out, operated and put to very good use especially depicting the mood of each of the main characters during their individual soliloquies. Sound was not an issue at any point, actors actually projecting on a stage, without electronic aids is a rare treat in this modern era. Thank you!

This is a very wordy play and takes a high quality cast to pull it off and WTC with Director Wendy Croft at the helm certainly found one of them. I really couldn't fault anyone or single anyone out over anybody else, it was a true team effort.

Caroline Blair as Hilary was the strong, but selfcentred "Sergeant Major" of the team, determined to break the record at all costs, showing her emotional acting skills when finally realising she needed to be a little more accepting of the others predicaments and points of view. Very well done.

Rosie Wilson as Siobhan was the gentle one of the team, the foil to Hilary's blustering ways, particularly poignant when she persuades Hilary that finishing as a team is far more important than breaking the record. Spot on performance.

Christine Easterfield as Yvonne provided the best laughs for me with her disapproving attitude to Andrew's presence and her soliloquy was a particularly funny rant about him. She certainly didn't take any nonsense from any of the others, but sometimes jumped to the wrong conclusions resulting in her putting her foot in it with hilarious results.

Katherine Maltby as Maggie, the youngest, but not really physically prepared member was a perfect foil to the sexy, keep fit fanatic character of Vicky. The opening scene depicting this perfectly as she strove to reach Vicky's high standard without really having the self-confidence to actually do so. Her soliloquy at the end was a lump in the throat moment, when you realised, she did the walk for herself.

Clare McDonald as Vicky, the man hungry one of the team whose introduction of Andrew to the group was delightfully funny, as the lovers groped their way through almost the entire play. This sex obsessed part is usually the youngest member of the group, but of course it actually adds a whole new dimension by making it a more mature character, allowing Yvonne in particular to give a 'you should know better' attitude to Vicky. Neat touch.

Huw Davies was a great Andrew, the tall handsome profile and of course you think he's just a playboy only in it because of his lust for Vicky, only to discover he was nothing of the sort and was walking for his late wife. Also his projection as the drunk on the 'street where you live' was particularly brilliant. Although it was drunken singing, he didn't actually miss a note, so clearly a man with serious singing voice. I also take my hat off to whoever was backstage helping him change costumes. Twice he changed incredibly quickly, from Andrew in jeans to drunk in dishevelled dinner suit, and then again from jeans to pink tutu for the bow in what appeared to be just seconds!!

David Morris as Ron, I can only describe as the working man's 'Mr Motivator', enthusiastic and great fun, who had us all out of our seats and exercising. He was well supported by Tina Seeley as Madge, his rather bossy cohort, with a whistle!

The pace of this show was relentless, the actors extremely confident and well rehearsed and all supported by a very competent backstage crew. My only slight criticism might be that Andrew was the only cast member to attempt any kind of northern accent, which to be fair didn't affect anything but was pointed out to me by my Cumbrian born other half.

Director Wendy Croft can be very proud of this production, there was much to admire and clearly a lot of thought went into the subliminal nods to breast cancer awareness - the chair covers, the bras, Andrews tutu; it certainly gave us both a thoughtful and entertaining evening. Thank you very much Waterbeach Theatre Company for both an excellent production and your kind hospitality.

Richard Fitt (NODA)

Waterbeach Theatre Company
All performances at
Waterbeach School
Cambridge CB25 9JU

Phone: 01223 880023

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