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Scrubbers

Tuesday, 17 August, 2010

Unbleached

Phoenix Artists Club, 8 – 10 August, 20.30  (2hrs 20min including 15 minute interval)

A band of female cleaners gather in the tearoom before and after their evening shifts.  They share their hopes, dreams, problems and secrets.  Mo (Hazel Bell), the older woman with the disinterested husband, Liz (Diane Lefley) the upper class woman with a past, Chrissy (Nia Dunbar) the hapless, romantically unlucky looser magnet and Helly (Jill Bailey McCleary) the had working Greek migrant with a mission, all rally around the natural leader, Dee (Yvonne Patterson), and her dreams of becoming a singer/songwriter.  This sets the five women on a rollercoaster of hope, self-doubt, and ultimately sees them gain a new appreciation of themselves, each other and their potential as individuals and a group.

There were several songs in the show and they were a mixed bag.  While some are quite forgettable, others were really good tunes.  Most are unfortunately made more difficult by backing tracks that are a little too loud in comparison to the non-microphoned singers.  Lead vocals by Yvonne Patterson are warm, engaging, sincere and well sung.  The musical highlight of the show is undoubtedly ‘God Bless the Working Woman’ in which Yvonne Patterson’s evocative singing is supported subtly by the other members of the cast to create a poignant scene.

The joy of this show is in the characters.  We see five very different women onstage and it is easy to become interested in who they are and how they interact with each other.  Yvonne Patterson’s Dee is a straight talking northerner with big dreams and a large dollop of self-deprecation, Hazel Bell’s Mo is a likeably rough around the edges cockney, while Diane Lefley’s Liz is a very believable posh girl fallen from grace.  Chrissy (Nia Dunbar) is endearingly hopeless and has some very funny moments while Helly (Jill Bailey McLeary) is delightfully earnest in her cultural and linguistic faux pas.

One difficulty with this production is momentum and oomph.  Perhaps it is the writing, or the technical constraints of staging a play with only one exit and where most scenes end with a not very dark blackout, but somehow several strong and engaging scenes seem to trail off at the end before a slightly dragging wait for the next scene. The script is constructed so that the show ends on a less definite note than it could, too.  There is a wonderfully succinct, natural end about ten minutes before the actual ending, and then the play continued in pleasant but less punchy post-script.

What the show lacks in momentum it makes up for in sincerity, with many highly believable moments and sympathetic, rounded, warts and all characters.  The many smiles of recognition which this performance elicits are made skillfully possible by the detailed work of the cast (they are all good and Yvonne Patterson and Diane Lefley deserve a mention for their utter believability in working as the two alpha female counterpoints to each other), and a lifelike staging by directors Daniel Serra (original production) and Linda Bagaini.

The five women in Scrubbers create a heartwarming show, warts and all.

Cast credits (alpha order):  Hazel Bell – Mo, Nia Dunbar – Chrissie, Diane Lefley – Liz, Jill Bailey McLeary (Helly), Yvonne Patterson (Dee).

Company Credits:  Producers – Diane Lefley and Hazel Bell, Director (original production) Daniel Serra, Director – Linda Bagaini, Stage Manager – Linda Bagaini, Assistant Stage Manager/Set Design – Julie Kevill, Lighting Design and Tech Assistant – Paul Kevill, Artwork – Daniel J Serra

Thanks to:  Maurice Huggett & Tom Walczak, Phoenix Artists Club

(c) Jennifer Skapeti 2010

Reviewed Tuesday 10th August, 2010

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