Friday, 6 June 2008

Daisy Pulls It Off!

3 June 2008
Gordon Craig Theatre

Daisy, Daisy, Give Me An Answer Do!

I’ve got to be honest. As always, Ian Dickens has got a good cast together and produced a slick production, but I have to say, the question that I want an answer to is, what is the point of Denise Deegan's play?!

The title makes you think it’s going to be a slightly risqué romp, a good old-fashioned farce, but it’s not. It’s amusing, but the main joke runs out after about five minutes and you spend the rest of the two and three quarter hours wondering if anything new is ever going to happen and if we will ever get to the ending, which frankly you can see coming from early in the first half.

The main joke is that it is all set in a girls boarding school in 1927 and all the characters say spiffing and scrummy and other such Enid Blyton-esque phrases in every sentence. As the school girls are played by much older girls it is vaguely comic for a couple of pages, but when you realise that this isn’t going to be the glorious send-up of those kinds of scenarios that the Comic Strip did so brilliantly in the 80s, but merely a recreation of something like Fifth Form at Malory Towers, you know you’re in for a long night. Now don’t get me wrong, I loved Enid Blyton, I devoured her books with relish. But I was seven at the time.

The story centres around Daisy Meredith, who as an ordinary girl at an ‘elementary’ school wins a scholarship to the ultra posh Grangewood boarding school. She’s poor but clever so guess what – despite her one friend Trixie, the rich girls hate her and so they play jolly japes on her, although they are not always jolly and she ends up on the brink of expulsion until, guess what, she saves the day and, guess what, they find out that she is not what they think. Yawn.

How they don’t know this from the start though is impossible. As soon as they start talking about missing heirs and long lost fathers early in the first half, the denouement is galloping towards you faster than Desert Orchid, it just takes an age to get there!

Daisy is charmingly played by Carly Hillman who used to be Nicki de Marco in EastEnders and Trixie by Julia Mallam who was Dawn in Emmerdale, so if you like seeing your ex-soap stars in the flesh then Ian Dickens, as always, has done a good job. I also liked Kim Hartman (Helga in Allo Allo) as the firm but fair headmistress and Ben Roberts (Inspector Conway in The Bill) as the enigmatic music teacher. They are all very good in these roles, don’t get me wrong! They deal with what they are given on the page extremely well, it’s just what they are given that I find wanting!

I have to try and be objective though. The audience around me seemed to be enjoying themselves so who am I to say? There’s obviously a niche for this production so if you’re in a family with daughters between the ages of seven and ten or you’ve never grown out of Upper Fourth at St Clares, wizard wheezes and midnight feasts, then this will make excellent viewing. If you don’t fall into that category, I wouldn’t waste your money!

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