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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA

Place Your Bets for Ladies’ Day at the Octagon Bolton!

By Hilary Dawes

Directed by Marieke Audsley, Amanda Whittington’s life-affirming comedy is set in 2005, when Royal Ascot relocated to York, and tells the story of four women who swap their typical working day for an exciting day at the races.

We meet the four friends at their daily work in a fish packing plant in Hull. Presided over by amiable supervisor Joe are: Jan - a single parent, whose life revolves around her daughter, shy Linda - a dedicated Tony Christie fan, Shelley - loud and feisty, looking for a good time and a rich man, and Pearl, the matriarch of the group.

They are discussing ideas for Pearl’s “retirement do”. All agree that Ladies’ Day at Royal Ascot York is the ideal choice and so follows an ingenious costume and set change, as the girls swap hairnets, overalls and wellies for posh frocks, fascinators and high heels.

Unable to afford grandstand tickets, they resign themselves to making the best of the day, with Jan’s picnic, several bottles of fizz and some lucky bets. Shelley however, returns from the toilets with a purse containing four tickets and convinces the others that the owner will never miss them – the purse is Gucci after all!

During the day, the girls encounter various characters including a television presenter, who promises Shelley a sparkling career in the media, jockey Patrick, who opens his heart to the gentle Linda, and Kevin, the compulsive gambler, afraid to go home to his wife. Seemingly on a winning streak, the girls now have their eyes on the half million pound tote, so tensions are running high.

The many hilarious moments are interspersed with some poignancy, but the play ends on a high note, as the four return to work after their eventful weekend and Joe delivers some unexpected news.

There were remarkable performances from all the cast members, with Tanya-Loretta Dee, as “happily” single Jan, Jo Patmore as shy and sensitive Linda, Annie Kirkman as larger than life Shelley, and Kate Wood as seemingly sensible Pearl. Gareth Cassidy, with his incredible range of accents and chameleon-like acting ability gave a superlative performance, becoming in turn six completely separate and convincing characters, including factory supervisor Joe, racing presenter Jim and jockey Patrick.

Praise must also go to the creative team who, with a minimal set and authentic sound effects, transported us from the drabness of the fish plant to the heady atmosphere of the racetrack.

For a fun, feel-good evening, don’t miss Ladies’ Day at the Octagon Bolton, running until

1st April 2023.

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