Ladies' Day: We talk to the cast and crew of Wolverhampton Grand Theatre show
Emmerdale star Deena Payne will line up with EastEnders favourite Cheryl Fergison in a major new production at Wolverhampton’s Grand Theatre. Ladies’ Day, by Amanda Whittington, will open tonight and run until July 28.
It will also feature Emma Rigby, Roisin O’Neill and Sean McKenzie and feature live music from Tony Christie.
Deena will play Pearl, though she is best known for playing Viv Hope in Emmerdale, a role she played for 18 years, making her one of the longest-serving female cast members in the shows history.
She originally trained at Arts Educational and her career started in 1968 as a dancer performing in many TV shows. She appeared in the original West End cast of They’re Playing Our Song by Neil Simon while stage musicals have included Noel Pearson’s The King, Big Sin City for Bill Kenwright Ltd and Leiber & Stoller’s Only In America at The Roundhouse.
She appeared in three tours of the acclaimed play Calendar Girls, produced by David Pugh and in 2017, Deena enjoyed a very successful UK tour playing Kath in the award-winning musical Our House.
Deena is thrilled to be dolled up in posh frocks for the new show. She says: “I’m not quite as staid as this. I might have a little black number but it would be a bit tighter.
“There’s belly laughs, there’s exciting laughs when your horse is coming in and then there’s very moving parts. When I first began to read the play, I felt that Pearl was quite Staid but there’s a little secret there that puts a twinkle in her eye and it all comes out slowly during Ladies’ Day.
“It’s so well written and so very in the now. It does depict four completely different women. It starts off in the factory, where they are all dressed the same. When they go to the Ladies’ Day, their own characters come out in what they are wearing. It seems to me these women don’t really socialise that much together. But lots come out during that day. They are a fish out of water. There’s everything from nicking something to spilling a very large secret. The reason why Pearl wants to go to the races in the first place isn’t particularly to go and bet. They’d all like to be like Pearl, happily married and so on.”
Producer and programme manager at the Grand Theatre, Tim Colegate, is pleased that the Grand is putting on such a big show. He says: “We are delighted to have somebody of Deena’s talent in the role of Pearl in Ladies’ Day and I’m sure our audiences will love her too. Deena is a wonderful actress and will undoubtedly add something special to our second in-house production”.
Ladies’ Day is an exuberant comedy about four likely lasses who work at a fish factory on a day trip to the races. Work, love and life are just one long, hard, slog for local fish-filleting foursome Pearl, Jan, Shelley and Linda. Will their fortunes change when they head to Ladies’ Day at Wolverhampton Racecourse?
The play was written by Amanda Whittington who is one of the most widely performed playwrights in the UK. Her plays include Be My Baby, Satin ’n’ Steel, Ladies’ Day and its sequel Ladies Down Under, The Thrill of Love, Kiss Me Quickstep and Mighty Atoms.
She has adapted Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, My Judy Garland Life and Tipping the Velvet for the stage. She writes regularly for BBC Radio 4, contributing to the Woman’s Hour serial and Afternoon Play slots.
Amanda says: “It started at Hull Truck Theatre about 15-plus years ago and it’s been embraced by the amateur sector and there have been professional revivals. This is the first time though that we’ve been able to update it.
“We did come down on race day and had lunch and did a few bets. The characters are very relatable and recognisable and I hope the audience will empathise with them and recognise something of themselves in the characters. They are every day women.
“It’s about four women who work together at a fish factory. They bicker and banter and get on each other’s nerves. But at the end of the day they are there for each other and there’s this important bond between them.
“I think really the audience relate to the characters and recognise something of their own friendships and own lives. There’s a tremendous warmth around this play. I’m thrilled and grateful that people have taken the play to their lives.”
Ladies’ Day will also feature the music of Tony Christie. “I was at the Grand Theatre in the past two years,” he says. “I was doing a tour and the Grand was one of the dates. It’s the date I remember most from the tour because I got a bus lane fine. My satnav let me down.
“I’m just over half an hour away in Lichfield. It’s a bit of a surprise, really, because they feature my music in the scene changes but there might also be a personal appearance – though not on a horse.”