Review: A winning performance from the East Dean Players

Ladies in Lavender
Ladies in Lavender


Ladies in Lavender

East Dean Players

East Dean & Friston Village Hall

East Dean Players have a long pedigree. They have been treading the boards for seventy years; and their latest offering Ladies in Lavender adds further laurels to their distinguished collective achievements.

John Dann, the director of the play, did a superb job in this production, his declared last for the society, and his half dozen actors did him proud.

I saw the second performance in a three-day run which began on March 30.

The first applause came before any line was delivered, as the complex set was revealed. It proved to be a vital part in the play’s success.

Mere lighting changes indicated whether we were in the cottage living-room, in the bedroom, in the garden, or on the beach.

The play began as a short story by William Locke, which focussed on the lives of two sisters in their forties in the early part of the twentieth century.

Many years later Charles Dance used the theme as a film-vehicle for Judi Dench and Maggie Smith.

In 2012 Shaun McKenna adapted this screenplay for the West End stage, and presumably this is the version we saw in East Dean.

Casting could hardly have been better.

Cheryl Veitch and Marilynne Sharpin needed to earn our sympathy as they “adopted” the strange wounded young man from Poland whom they had spotted unconscious on the beach.

They convinced totally in their roles. They even conveyed the growing jealousy as both virtually fell in love with their acquisition, without ever seeming ridiculous.

Their somewhat beligerent servant, Dorcas, was both insolent and level-headed: a complex portrayal played with a skill which suggested that Diane Clarke brought years of experience to the part.

Polly McGrane was at one and the same time pretty and well able to look after herself.

She fended off the attentions of the village’s violin-playing Doctor with quiet confidence, even when Mark Foster switched on his most irresistible bedside manner.

The part of the slowly recovering young man from the beach, who struggled not only to walk, but to learn English, was perfectly caught by Camber Sands.

This, therefore, is a “rave review”.

But surely there must have been small things that could have been improved?

Well, yes, there were. If one is to impress as a violinist, while in reality we are hearing a recording, there needed to be some practice in making the left hand and its fingers do more than simply grasp the instrument.

In addition some rehearsal time might have been given to ensuring that speech which is whispered or read is, nonetheless, audible at the back of the auditorium.

Having said all that, however, in the far more vital activity of inhabiting a character onstage, this show really was a winner.

By Robin Gregory