REVIEW: Ladies In Lavender, Frinton Summer Theatre ✭✭✭

Paul T Davies reviews Ladies In Lavender kicking of Frinton Summer Theatre’s 81st season.

Frinton Summer Theatre
The cast of Ladies in Lavender. Photo: Chris Davies of Photovogue Studio Frinton

Ladies In Lavender.
Frinton Summer Theatre.
13 July 2022
3 Stars
Box Office

Adapted from Charles Dances’ successful 2004 film, this play is a perfect choice for Britain’s oldest repertory theatre, kicking off it’s 81st season. And what a season it is, with many excellent plays coming up, and the spectacular Jesus Christ Superstar in a tent in August! But for now, Shaun McKenna’s adaptation gives us a period piece set in 1937, when two sisters, Ursula and Janet, discover and nurture a Polish violinist, Andrea, found washed up on the beach near their remote cottage. The excellent programme notes point out that the title may refer to the long-lost practice of laying away fabrics in lavender to protect them from moths- this metaphor works well as the sisters protect Andrea and he also reawakens both sad memories and joy in his talent. Attitudes towards foreigners are also entrenched, the scars from the first World War still visible as the second one steps ever closer.  The kindness shown to him feels like a strong message today.

It’s a good cast, cantered by the chalk and cheese sisters. Virge Gilchrist captures sensible, practical Janet, but I felt she could let her mask slip a little more when Janet remembers her lost love. Emily Raymond is perfect as flighty, dreamy Ursula, and James Hastings is excellent as Andrea, managing to convey emotion from his sick bed out into the auditorium, and playing the violin superbly.  Maxine Evans is wonderful as housekeeper Dorcas, with a sardonic wit and excellent timing, and William Oxborrow is spot on as the local Doctor, indicating his loneliness when he falls for bohemian artist Olga, (Deli Segal working brilliantly with a slightly underwritten role).  It’s performed on a beautiful set by Sorcha Corcoran, once more finding depth in the limited space, and the lighting captures sunsets convincedly.

In Act Two, we can almost see the machinery of the writing working, as it is a little contrived, (Olga’s brother just happens to be a world-famous conductor who can provide Andrea with a successful career if he leaves Cornwall immediately).  However, the play is both genteel and gentle, and that’s its strength. While not exactly building to a climax, the ending is moving, and the power of the music really comes through.


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