Daisy Pulls It Off

Date 28th October 2017
Society Cobham Players
Venue Cobham Village Hall
Type of Production Play
Director Mike Dawes
Musical Director Gill Pepperrell
Choreographer n/a

Report

Author: Jon Fox

This feel good play with its "jolly hockey sticks" meets Enid Blyton language transports us back to a world that was inhabited by class ridden and moneyed people.

It is the story of a bright, but financially poor elementary girl who wins the first ever scholarship  to the elite Grangewood School for Girls.   The play tells of her journey through her school year, from being bullied by some - but having a best chum to help her - to overcoming the prejudice of the class ridden school society and becoming accepted and admired by all.

Director Mike Dawes, in his programme notes relates that "'Daisy Pulls It Off' takes its inspiration from the schoolgirl novels of the early part of the  last century, in particular those of Angela Brazil" ....... "the similarity in both language and story lines between them and 'Daisy' is remarkable;  so much that I see 'Daisy Pulls It Off' as a celebration, a pastiche of the genre, certainly not a parody ....".

As a period piece, the importance of upper class language was given full reign by all players - who in turn introduced themselves to the audience - and the morality of being English with an Empire is very much to the fore throughout.

The other side of the coin is snobbery, disdain and an unpleasant air of superiority to anyone less privileged, which to many of today's young people, may seem faintly ridiculous.

Director Mike very sensibly dispensed with overmuch cumbersome scenery, using his sparse sets, with important props, to fine effect.   However, the essentials were all there  to represent the various school locations.   We also saw Daisy back at home and on the train to school, when she was first befriended by Trixie.

As a thought provoking piece of theatre "Daisy Pulls it Off" is an undoubted success.    I congratulate director Mike Dawes, backed by the committee in tackling this tricky and challenging play.   Using adults to play children was wise, indeed essential, to fully bring out the morality and also the immorality in this play.

A cast of adults, some young, others more mature in years and stage experience played their roles to the hilt.   How refreshing it is to hear every syllable and consonant clearly; the diction by the entire cast was excellent.    No estuary English here!

Daisy Meredith was played in thrilling fashion by the gifted Helen Dixon.   She inhabited rather than played the character and I consider this portrayal among the very finest I have seen on the amateur stage.

Hayley Clines as her loyal chum Trixie Martin was a top class foil and the two girls, despite some mischief, lifted the spirits whenever on stage, which was a huge chunk of the play.

Daisy's tormentor was Sybil Burlington played with nuanced skill by Jean Burgess, giving another marvellous performance.   When the wretched girl, through guilt and shame, "came clean" about her own bad behaviour, the emotion was raw and palpable.

Sybil's "partner in crime" was the sneak Monica Smithers, played with authentic spite by Charlotte Coulson.

Victoria Franklin was the classy school head girl Claire Beaumont, her portrayal being pure Joanna Lumley in breeding and style.   None better!   I especially loved the night time tale that Claire told Daisy and Trixie about the Beaumont treasure.

Jilly Moss played a suitably stern headmistress,  Miss Gibson, first sending a "set up" Daisy to the sanitorium as punishment and then expelling Sybil, until Daisy intervened on Sybil's behalf and finally became her friend.

Samantha Myers dovetailed to fine effect as Mother, Mademoiselle and Dora Johnston.    Tanya Isaiah and Nicky Barnes both did well as Belinda Mathieson and Alice Fitzpatrick respectively.

The highly experienced Kim Groom brought her considerable skills to the roles of Miss Granville and    Winnie Irving.

Keith Burgess showed presence and a fine accent as Mr Scoblowski, the school geography teacher, and, as it transpired late in the story, formerly a Russian Count who rescued Daisy's father, Sir Digby Beaumont during WW1.

Jason Lambert was the whistling school handyman / janitor, Mr Thompson, later revealed to be Sir Digby and therefore Daisy's father.    His long term amnesia was portrayed rather well with him appearing fleetingly throughout, unknown and unrecognised by Daisy, until the denouement of the story.   A small but vital role, played with veracity by another experienced actor.

Finally, we met Gill Pepperrell, the school pianist, whom I presume acted as the musical director - and to excellent effect - for the fine singing in this play.

All the various adventures were staged with real drama, none better than the cliff rescue scene.   The absence of overmuch cumbersome set aided the seamless transition from scene to scene without delay.

Sound including some special effects by Andrew Mair was matched in standard by effective and well devised lighting designed by Stephen Farr.    Realistic and well fitted costumes under the painstaking eye of wardrobe mistress Mary Taylor were a credit to the show.

Overall this was a highly enjoyable play provided by a fine cast, marshalled by a visionary director and enjoyed by a fortunate audience.