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DAISY PULLS IF OFF by Denise Deegan

Published by: Elaine Pinkus on 9th Dec 2017 | View all blogs by Elaine Pinkus

Daisy Pulls It Off by Denise Deegan at the Park Theatre, Finsbury Park, London.

 

 

Ah hah! Bully off, jolly hockey sticks, it’s back to those halcyon days of Angela Brazil and the bygone era of girls’ boarding schools with midnight feasts, pillow (or in this case hot water bottle) fights and, of course, jolly hockey sticks.  Inspired by her childhood reading, and wishing to create a platform for women actors, Denise Deegan wrote the successful, award winning Daisy Pulls If Off in 1980. Since then it has played in many theatres with varying cast sizes. In this revival, it is being performed in its original cast size and, as such, relies heavily on the artistry of the actors and the skill of director Paulette Randall MBE.

 

On entering the intimate space of London’s Park Theatre, the audience is greeted with the Grangewood school motto 'Honesta Quam Magna' (how great are noble things). Yes, in this privileged world it is honour, loyalty, honesty and of course social class that dominates. Will Daisy Meredith, a mere elementary school girl who has won a scholarship to these hallowed halls, manage to bridge the gulf? Will she be accepted by those who consider her their inferior?

 

 

Pauline McLynn and Anna Shaffer (l-r) in Daisy Pulls It Off at Park Theatre. Photo by Tomas Turpie 35_preview.jpeg 

Pauline McLynn as Trixie and Anna Shaffer as Daisy

 

And so it is that the play within a play begins. It is the 25th anniversary of Grangewood School and the girls are to create and perform a play for the parents, aunts, uncles and all who have come to celebrate. This is to be the story of Daisy Meredith and her chum Trixie Martin who set about solving the mystery of the Beaumont treasure, creating for this purpose their Dark Horse secret society. It is a world of latin expressions, ‘oh jubilate’, of social expectations and of course, sporting prowess. And in this world, there is no sneaking or telling of tales.

 

Productions have generally been played in a straight way, after all the script is so exaggerated that the humour is obvious within the writing. However, Randall has admitted to changing the rules this time and to allow licence to the talented group of actors who embrace their diverse roles with relish. From the prim headmistress (Lucy Eaton), to the bullying Sybil and Monica (Shobana Gulati and Clare Perkins) to the adorable Trixie Martin (Pauline McLynn), we settle into that world and experience the injustices netted out to poor Daisy. 'Play up and play the game' is central to her story. It may be enacted through hockey (Lucy Eaton as Alice), or led by the faultless headgirl Clare, (Melanie Fullbrook), adored by all but at its centre is integrity and fair play.

 

There are some wonderful spirited moments and delicious effects of gales and hockey games. As the play returns to its second act the cast settle confidently into their roles and perform with a sense of fun and enjoyment, winning the audience over with their antics. We celebrate the win at hockey through the excitement of Belinda (Freddie Hutchins) in his/her lap of honour and cheer when Daisy saves the day. 

 

The cast of Daisy Pulls It Off at Park Theatre. Photo by Tomas Turpie 32_preview.jpeg

 

The cast of Daisy Pulls It Off: Anna Shaffer, Freddie Hutchins, Lucy Eaton, Melanie Fullbrook

 

There are some wonderful comic moments with characters bringing to life those glorious boarding school stories. Pauline McLynn as Trixie was an absolute delight, playing her role with uninhibited joy and vigour. Anna Shaffer as Daisy was playing her stage debut and will have gained much from the support of her accomplished fellow actors. 

 

Although I was reticent about the poetic licence and freedom of this interpretation there is no doubt it can be enjoyed by all and is an evening of fun and festve spirit.

 

Photographs: Tomas Turpie

 

Venue: PARK200, Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, N4 3JP

Tel: 020 7870 6876

Dates: Tuesday 5 December 2017 - Saturday 13 January 2018

Age guidance: 8+

 

Tube: Finsbury Park (Station Place Exit)

 

Running time: 2 hours 25 minutes including a 20 minute interval

 

 

 

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