Ladies in Retirement got off to a cracking start last Friday evening - not only did the first night audience almost fill the theatre but their reactions showed that the choice of play, the casting and the acting were highly appreciated.
I cannot have been the only one who secretly thought for several scenes that the costume department were not quite up to their usual high standards when choosing a wig for Leonora - it is brash, red and, well, not quite convincing. But as we discover during the course of the play, not only is this intentional, but it gives us another hint as to the character, played with great aplomb by Maggie Cardew.
For Leonora Fiske is an ex-good time girl, now living in retirement but still addicted to the good things in life, whether the newest music to play on her beloved piano, continually picking at the sweeties or guzzling champagne. Or indeed being visited by a handsome young man, as she is.
That handsome young man however is of the type with whom Leonora is very familiar - an appreciator of a pretty face and easy money, and capable of letting both land him in trouble. Adam Richardson is convincingly flirtatious and dodgy as Albert, the nephew of Leonora's live in companion, Ellen Creed.
But it is Ellen's other relatives who her mistress objects to, for when two other Miss Creeds come to visit, they outstay their welcome. Well, would you approve a house guest scattering driftwood and seaweed all over your sitting room carpet and filling your home with seashells and dead birds?
Di Evans at times is in danger of stealing the show as Miss Emily, the resentful, eccentric collector of such items, while Cynara Crump, as the more overtly vulnerable Miss Louisa with her treasured telescope, all she has left of a dead suitor, adds her own piquantly amusing observations.
With her mistress demanding the sisters are sent packing, and her responsibilities to them weighing heavily, what will Ellen do?
Glenys Williams perfectly portrays Ellen's dilemma, and the scene in which she is, as she says, 'made to feel her position very much' is a pivotal art of the play.
Add to this the subplot of Albert trying to seduce lady's maid Lucy, played with convincing innocence by Carole Simpson, and a nosy but kind-hearted nun, played by Suzie Chilton, and the mystery of what has happened to Miss Leonora Fiske unfolds with black comedy underpinning the thrilling denouement.
Ladies in Retirement is showing at the Apollo Theatre every evening until Saturday 5 September - don't miss it!