Daisy Pulls It Off is a family friendly comedy about the intrepid Daisy Meredith and her adventures at the exclusive Grangewood School for Young Ladies.
This is a play for women, (although the headmistress frequently is played by a man!) is funny, has all the open eyed wonder of an age long gone and provides varying complexities for the creatives involved. All of these attributes served as attractive lures for Director Laura Bradley.
"The script was suggested to me as it seemed ideal for Hartwell's talent pool. It's amazing how many talented actresses there are out there (and at Hartwell). Most plays are male dominated so it was lovely to find a script that contained a large number of fabulous roles for females," she says. "The other attractive feature of this work was how funny it was. The title sums up the general feel of the show – "Daisy Pulls It Off" – it's sending itself up. The script is full of cheeky innuendo and nods to the audience. The fact that it's designed for adult women to be playing 1920's schoolgirls tells you everything you need to know."
"Daisy Pulls It Off is actually a play within a play. It's designed as the schoolgirls putting on a show, which allows a director creative licence to have fun with set and props. For instance, certain cast members are stretching their talents by playing set dressing & sound effects on stage!"
"The other exciting thing about Daisy is how much those who've been involved in productions of it before love it. It was suggested to me by my partner, who'd acted in a 2007 production of it with Leo9, plus we ended up casting three other actresses who had either acted in or directed it previously. It is the sort of play that sticks with you, if for no other reason than it's such a lot of fun to be a part of!"
This is the first full length play Bradley has directed in a long time but she was excited enough by the script to accept the opportunity to bring this play to Hartwell's black box theatre, which, she says, is ideal for such a flexible script. The scripts does however make quite a few challenging demands which, in the hands of an inspired director, can become very rewarding.
"It's a character driven piece with no specific set or scenes. Some of those have been challenges I've had to overcome,' explains Bradley. "I had to design a set that was going to allow a lot of changes, and be utilised as multiple locations. I had to figure out how to make the set work for locations such as train carriages, staircases, head mistresses study, common room, assembly stage & cliff top (and that was only one side of the stage!). I also had to work in a classroom, a sanatorium, a hockey pitch and a portrait gallery. Being in a black box theatre, we couldn't create a static set so I had to think outside the box (pun intended)."
"One of the biggest challenges initially was mapping the entrances and exits of 15 characters. I had to work out where the students & teachers were coming and going at all times. In the end I created six entry points on the stage. The script doesn't allow for black outs and scene changes so there has to be a constant flow through of characters. The actors need to ensure that their cues are snappy and their entrances well timed to keep the pace of the play up."
"The other major challenge was props and costumes. This is a prop heavy play – with pieces being used by multiple characters. We also had to find or make props that were era appropriate. The costumes – authentic 1920s school girl uniforms – had to be hand made from scratch. Teaching the actors to behave like well bred 1920s English ladies was also a challenge!"
Bradley brings many years of experience to Hartwell and comes to them after the demise of her previous company HATS in 2004 when she began looking for another theatre company. "I wanted one that shared similar values and a strong sense of community. I found that at Hartwell," she states. "They're a very welcoming company and I felt at home right away. I have been involved in a multitude of plays with the company since then, but my favourite (excluding Daisy of course) has been directing Fur Better or Worse – 2010's multi-award winning one act play. I am currently on the Hartwell Committee and have been Vice President since 2010."
According to Bradley, Daisy Pulls It Off is a homage to 1920s schoolgirl novels, to a time when things were simpler and even the most evil character had a good heart. When honest intentions and pluck were enough to get you through any challenge. Where words were not tainted by modern cynical attitudes.
"At the same time the script allows you to take a step back and view these idealised attitudes with a sense of irony that modern thinking allows," she explains. "I believe that we have held true to these intentions. The other thing the author has done is create the "play within a play" which has given us free licence to poke fun at ourselves and the medium of theatre."
Bradley does warn, however, that If you are a theatre purist then this is not the show for you. If however, you enjoy seeing high school girls in uniforms (some of whom look surprisingly old for their age) playing with hockey sticks and eating creamy buns then come see this spiffingly glorious show! Featuring a plucky heroine, a snarky bitch, a madcap eccentric, a shifty Bolshevik and an invisible man all tied up in a thrilling mystery culminating in a life or death cliff hanger. Be there or be labelled a rotter.
Daisy Pulls It Off
September 14 – September 29