Ladies’ Day review at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre – ‘a directionless revival’
Originally produced by Hull Truck in 2005, Amanda Whittington’s comedy about four women on a day out at the races hasn’t aged well, despite a rewrite relocating the play to Wolverhampton Racecourse in 2018, and a cosmetic reference or two to Love Island.
The play itself is a light, frothy entertainment with obvious popular appeal, but Jason Capewell and Alasdair Harvey’s production lacks the light-footedness that such a play requires — clumsy set pieces are wheeled on and off, non-speaking ensemble members loiter in the background. Where it should fizz like champagne on race day, it falls flat, and no-one seems to know why this story wants to be told.
Worse, a subplot concerning a predatory TV presenter doesn’t have anything useful to add to the discourse surrounding #MeToo, or the nuance to read as anything but broad comedy — having financially pressured a character into prostitution, the presenter slaps her on the bum to a chuckle from the audience.
Given that the characters bet exclusively on horses named after Tony Christie songs, the casting of Tony Christie as himself introduces a welcome touch of self-awareness. Ambling across the stage during scene changes, Christie inhabits a sort of spectral half-place, out of time and not quite of the world of the play. His chocolatey crooning vocalises the bittersweetness of lives half-lived. But any sentimental heft Christie lends is too little, too late.