Had director Ken Weston not told me their venue, the Davies Foundation Auditorium, was a converted hockey arena, I would have never known. I could have sworn the atmosphere inside of the Leading Ladies production reflected exactly what a 1950s home would feel like.
I waited on an old couch for the auditorium to open its doors. The room was filled with music from the 1950s – I was overcome with a feeling of nostalgia for a time I never lived in as I listened to the ladies sitting behind me reminisce over the tunes, over lost love and, surprisingly, the promise of dating.
The set was exactly as I would expect a 50s home to be: pastel walls decorated with old picture frames, porcelain figurines not unlike the ones in my late grandmother’s home, nesting on antique wooden furniture, a floral patterned couch in the centre of the room.
I noticed the bookshelf built into the left side of the set that, throughout the play, also acted as a doorway leading behind the set on their stage right. Small aspects like this demonstrate a great use of space, which is clearly important when working with low budget productions.
The play involves two down-and-out Shakespearean actors who catch wind of a dying wealthy woman, who plans to leave her fortune to her two nephews. Little do they know, the nephews are actually nieces and thus they’re forced to pose as women to integrate into the family.
Duncan, played by Randy Johnson, was my favourite character. Johnson drives taxis at night on and around the Queen’s campus – he told me my friends might know him as the eccentric taxi driver. Somehow the ridiculous posh and slightly British accent just seemed to work for him rather than annoy.
He played a man involved in the church who was set to marry Meg, played by Kait Palmer. Right off the bat the couple gives an impression of a classic couple of the 1950s – a tad phony and tightly wound, who prefer to pretend problems in their life do not exist, ending most conversations, despite the nature, by saying “kiss kiss.”
Jack and Leo, played by Bill Bustard and James Gow respectively, are the victims, or perhaps perpetrators, of the family infiltration. They push themselves as actors to take on the roles of nieces.
Though much of the humour in the play is less sophisticated and more slapstick comedy, who doesn’t like to watch two men run around in women’s clothes? If you’ve ever watched Little Britain, the hilarity that ensues in Leading Ladies is not unlike their sketch “We Are Ladies,” in which two men pose as women clearly caught in Restoration Era Britain.
The female roles were just as strong as the male ones. Although I found Kelti Roy’s role a tad forcibly cute, I don’t believe this was a fault of her own. Her confidence on stage was radiant as a naïve and flirtatious Audrey.
Mary Barclay, who played Florence, the elderly woman dying, flourished in the spotlight. Her facial expressions and hilarious one-liners kept the audience belly laughing. She was grouchy and crotchety, bossy but sentimental – and it worked.
I particularly enjoyed how the play had a mix of subtle and not-so-subtle vulgarity. It was refreshing to see that sexually-driven humour isn’t just limited to younger audiences.
After a battle involving quick costume changes and a great deal of gender confusion, the play came to a rather abrupt end, the resolution having been quite obvious throughout the play. Despite its predictability, perhaps it also worked to its advantage. The audience was able to enjoy the simple humour and sentimentality of love without having to overthink it.
Leading Ladies will be playing at 52 Church St. until Sept. 21. Tickets can be purchased at the Grand Theatre Box Office.
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