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Ladies in Retirement
by Edward Percy and Reginald Denham
20th 25th October, 2008

"The Mick-a-doo miss?" - "It's the Mikado Lucy"

Leonora and Ellen, close companions.

The sisters must leave!

Sister Theresa and Ellen.

Synopsis

Based on a famous murder in the 19th century, this is arguably the finest stage thriller ever written. Set in a remote, lonely house on the marshes of the Thames estuary, an ex actress lives with her companion. A visit from two eccentric sisters who make themselves at home precipitates events, compounded by the arrival of a mysterious nephew. The result is disappearance and murder.

Cast

Lucy GilhamRACHEL PRONGERLouisa CreedNADINE WALKER
Leonora FiskeJUNE DRIVEREmily CreedMURIEL THOMAS
Ellen CreedALISON MAINSister TheresaCATHERINE HELLIWELL
Albert FeatherJAMIE ROGERSDirectorROSEMARY GRAINGER

Director's Notes

"A play about a Victorian Murder? It must be a Melodrama!" You could be excused from making this assumption, but I think you would be wrong. Ladies in Retirement is certainly not a conventional melodrama, neither is it really a "Who dunnit?". The play was an immediate hit when first performed in 1939, and a successful film followed in 1941. There is a risk that plays written in the middle of the 20th century will seem dated to a modern audience, but with the action set firmly in 1885 this play is essentially a period drama. It is also an extremely well crafted "chiller".

Using an actual nineteenth century murder as the basis of their plot, the dramatists have transferred the events from France to the lonely marshes of the Thames estuary. The play is full of contrasts, moving from June through September to November, with alternating sunshine and storms, daylight and the darkness of night. There is gentle comedy throughout as we allow Leonora's easy manner, Albert's jaunty impudence and the sisters' eccentricities to charm us, but it is the driving force which motivates Ellen that grips our hearts. Described as "a tigress with her cubs", Ellen admits that she is no longer "a very good judge of what is right or wrong".

Despite its genteel title, Ladies in Retirement leaves us all chilled to the core.

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