Ladies in Black

Ladies in Black
Book by Carolyn Burns from the novel by Madeleine St John. Music and Lyrics by Tim Finn. Directed by Leo Bradley and Elizabeth Morris. Presented by Villanova Players. Ron Hurley Theatre, 26 October – 10 November, 2019

The Australian musical Ladies in Black has fast become a favourite of audiences around the nation for its heart-warming story, wonderful music and fabulous fashion. This delightful coming of age story set in 1950s Sydney is now being produced by one of Brisbane’s longest-standing independent theatre groups, Villanova Players.

The script is packed with heart and humour. It’s very relatable and has a real Australian flavour to it. The story focuses on Lisa Miles, a clever young woman who is starting to find her feet as an adult. She gains employment in ‘Goodes’ – a high-end department store – and becomes one of the ‘Ladies in Black’ serving customers in ladies’ fashion. As such, the show includes a lot of gorgeous costuming by Lia Surrentino. Great effort has been made to source period-appropriate pieces that complement the actors and suit the characters.

Villanova has cast the show well, with actors really looking the part. The best acting, dancing and singing is delivered by Lauren Flood as Patty. She has great confidence and commitment, lighting up the stage each time she appears. Jane Sizer as Mrs Crown and Pat Wockner as Miss Jacobs are very believable in their acting. Cecilia Girard is suitably awkward and nervous as the bookish Lisa. Nikolai Stewart as Rudi has a lovely, strong singing voice with beautiful tones. As always, The Bastard Song is the most loved by the audience and the performers appear to really relish the execution of the number too.

The set design by Epi Pereira functions well and looks period-appropriate, but that’s unsurprising as director Leo Bradley comes from a design background. The old photos that are projected on screen above the stage are a nice touch and help to enhance the experience of ‘stepping back in time’ to 1950s Australia. Lynette Wockner’s choreography also suits the era and is well within the abilities of the cast.

Ladies in Black isn’t all frocks and girly giggles. It deals with some sensitive and meaty issues such as racism, patriarchy and infertility. The show does it in such a clever and entertaining way, it’s no wonder it has theatre companies around Australia clamouring to perform it.

Kiesten McCauley 

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