Daisy Pulls it Off
Charing Cross Theatre
19th June – 30th June
Daisy pulls it off | Review
I have never been to the Charing Cross Theatre before, but my what a lovely little theatre it is – with the exception of the trains running overhead, it is the perfect venue to stage this limited revival of Denise Deegan’s ‘Daisy Pulls it Off’. Unfortunately, that is about all that can be said is perfect in this ambitious if somewhat misjudged performance. Daisy Pulls it Off, tells the comedic tale of Daisy Meredith (Marina Papadopolos), a young student who arrives at Grangewood School for Young Ladies, making friends (such as the eccentric Trixie, played by Katy Ellis) and enemies (Persia Babayan-Taylor and Gemma Evans really do make a wonderful double act), playing hockey and finding the odd bit of treasure along the way. The plot is hackneyed, it’s a bit of a hodge podge, where every single cliché from Enid Blyton’s repertoire is used to full effect – it’s supposed to, after all ‘Daisy Pulls it Off’ is firstly a parody of those books. Which I can’t help but feel is what ultimately means that this version just doesn’t quite hit the mark.
This revival, by the Guildford School of Acting is ambitious, a twelve-piece cast, all of whom trained, who not only act, but perform music and sing throughout the piece. It is the first Actor-Musician performance the school have transferred, and fair play to them all, they are phenomenally talented singers, and wonderful musicians…it’s the acting where it all goes a bit awry. Don’t get me wrong, I love these kinds of plays; as someone who grew up reading about the exploits of the twins at St Claire’s and all about the Mallory Towers girls, dreaming of attending my own private boarding school, I get the appeal, but there is a fine line between a tight pastiche of the English upper-classes and a hammy performance, and whilst I’m not going to single anyone out, on more than one occasion a few performers tripped over a line. It’s a difficult one, I understand that, there is no harder genre to perform than comedies and pastiches, but whilst everyone loves to laugh at the cliché and the ridiculous conceits, if the performance doesn’t go further than one note, the few emotional moments, and the bits where the text borders on political, simply don’t land. The other problem, of course, is if those moments don’t land, likewise the comedy doesn’t always work. Pastiches should be played as straight as possible, albeit with the odd wink to the audience. The cast of ‘Daisy’ however, are taking the whole thing a bit too seriously (apart from Katy Ellis, Harry Edwin and Gemma Evans who are clearly having a whale of a time), and that sometimes makes it hard for the audience to really be carried along with the whole jolly hockey sticks vibe the play is going for.
That’s not to say the piece is terrible, because it’s absolutely not. The performances are sharp, and there are a few stand out moments, such as the hockey game in the second half, which I will admit was a stroke of genius (well done to director Nicholas Scrivens). The music is beautifully performed, and there are some moments of real humour throughout the piece. It just so happens that these moments are rare, and that is a real shame as the second half of the performance in general picked up a lot of pace and was really a lot of fun. There were a few technical issues throughout the night, microphone change over problems, and an odd buzzing that cropped up every so often, and in fairness the cast didn’t let any of these throw them off, it but my overall feeling of the piece was that it was an amateur performance masquerading as a professional one.
Which is a shame, because there is real promise to the piece, and hopefully over the next few nights they’re there they can iron out any technical issues. Of course, comedy is by its very nature subjective, and whilst I didn’t laugh all that much, there were plenty of audience members who did. Perhaps it’s just me. Which is a shame, because I really did want to like this performance.
There are good intentions in ‘Daisy Pulls it Off’, but unfortunately those intentions can’t quite make up for what I feel were fairly crucial misunderstandings of the text. A jolly night out, but certainly not one for the year book
Reviewer: Alice Foster
Photo: Robert Workman
Daisy Pulls it Off is currently playing at The Charing Cross Theatre until 30th June.
Director: Nicholas Scrivens
Cast: Persia Babayan-Taylor, Harry Edwin, Katy Ellis, Gemma Evans, Mark Fitzsimmons, Hanna Khogali, Jacob Leeson, Lara Lewis, Sophie Moores, Marina Papadopoulos, Cornelia Todd, Madeline Wilshire