Pandemic Memories of Ladies Down-Under

Chelmsford Theatre Workshop at The Old Court Theatre, became one of the first amateur groups in the east of England to stage a production in 18 months. We started rehearsals for Ladies Down Under in March 2020 but had to suspend them as lockdown began. Rehearsals resumed in July once restrictions had eased but were stopped again when four of the eight actors tested positive for coronavirus. The rest of the cast and crew also went into isolation.  Zoom rehearsals followed which, in a strange way helped the cast to think of their lines rather
than moves, so on return it was almost ‘books down’. Back at the theatre once everyone was clear, we had to use masks, visors and keep distance between us. Not great when as a director I needed to hear projection and see expressions but we soldiered on. We also needed two new lighting technicians as one could only do four nights and two assistant stage managers. One of our actors had long Covid and could only do a few rehearsals, another actor caught Covid two weeks before the show and as a director I almost gave up as the stress was almost too much.

It was the perfect example of the old stage adage ‘the show must go on’, and a miracle that we are able to lead the way for amateur productions by actually getting this play on stage. On top
of the long shutdown and the Covid outbreak, we lost three of the original actors, including one who is now heavily pregnant and another who won a place at a top drama school but, it was an amazing effort by cast and crew, and was a perfect joyous and touching play to gladden everyone’s hearts as we emerged from this awful last 18 months.

The Mayor of Chelmsford and her deputy came along to support the opening of our new refurbished theatre and, much to our delight, we had great audiences who not only loved the
show but helped us raise over £300 for the Helen Rollanson Cancer Charity.

Christine Davidson
Ladies Down Under by Amanda Whittingham is the sequel to Ladies Day, which was an award-winning sell-out production for Chelmsford Theatre Workshop four years ago. It tell a funny and heart-warming tale of the adventures of four fish factory workers – Pearl (Jane Smith), Jan (Jenny Hillyard), Shelley (Corinne Woodgate) and Linda (Meg Rennie) who, after winning £500,000 on a six-horse accumulator at Royal Ascot, decide to blow some of the cash on a holiday of a lifetime to Australia to hook up with their old factory boss and Jan’s one-time suitor
Joe (Alan Edwards), who is there on a mid-life-crisis gap year; but all the while Pearl is hiding a devastating secret. Along the way, the pals encounter philosophical bushwhacker Danny (Chris Hudson) and drag queens Koala Bare (Phil Oldershaw) and Bondi Bitch (Ian Holding-Sutton) whocombine to change their lives forever. The production used state-of-the-art projection sets to bring alive the magic of the landmarks of Australia.