Funny, honest and authentic, with something of an emotional punch, Gail Young’s play tackled a potentially tricky subject in an unfussy but sensitive manner.  Ostensibly this was the tale of the Cheshire Cats team of Hilary, Siobhan, Vicky, Yvonne and Maggie, and their eleventh-hour replacement for the sixth member of the team, as they took part in a cancer charity fundraising Moonwalk in London.  But it also took time to explore the lives of these 5 women, enabling us to learn more about their motivation for participating, a dramatic and sometimes poignant counterbalance to the comic bickering of this group of friends.

 The production was simply staged, with the minimum of props.  It moved at an excellent pace and the constant changes of scene in act 2 were managed in an interesting and dynamic way.  Great use was made of the stage and auditorium spaces, together with lighting and music, and the production was pitch perfect in capturing the euphoria and camaraderie of such charity events.

Director Wayne Ings handled the material with confidence and sensitivity, drawing fine performances from his ensemble cast.

 The five women characters – Vicky (Beverly Sell), Maggie (Jillian Wildgoose), Hilary (Kristy Hepworth), Siobhan (Amanda Evans) and Yvonne (Sue Barton-Leigh) – were well drawn and strongly acted.  There was a real dynamic spark and believable sense of camaraderie between the characters.  Some lovely comic acting was counterbalanced by the poignancy of the soliloquies of Hilary and in particular the final one of Maggie.  The use of the soliloquy was a clever and effective device that permitted the audience a glimpse of the real person behind the façade and added to the sense of authenticity of the writing.

 Peter Revis was in fine form as Andrew the eventual sixth member of the team, revealed to have considerably more hidden depths than to the charming joker to whom we are initially introduced.  The supporting cast all enjoyed their moments, with the race marshals Madge and Emma in particular making their mark.  For anyone who travels by train, the running joke of the all too recognisable train announcement that became unintelligible at all the crucial moments was also something to enjoy.

 This was a fun and moving play that celebrated the endeavours of ordinary people undertaking extraordinary things.  It deserves to be celebrated by a somewhat larger audience than that of the football world cup semi-final night.

 Karen Robson

Cheshire Cats 2018 Review
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