REVIEW: Cheshire Cats at Riverhead Theatre

There will be few people who have not known a loved one or acquaintance whose life has been blighted by cancer, and some may therefore have doubts about coming to a play billed as a comedy, in which a group of friends take part in a fundraising walk in support of a cancer charity.

If so, they can be assured that this production by Louth Playgoers of Cheshire Cats by Gail Young, treats the subject with great sensitivity. Director Sue Soper achieves a wonderful blend of humour and pathos in this emotional roller-coaster, in which five Cheshire ladies (accompanied by one gentleman) train for and take part in the thirteen-mile Moonwalk, through Battersea Park at night.

The six ‘walkers’ are superbly cast, each portraying their character to perfection. Leader Hilary (Dorothy Baron) battles to keep her team focussed on the training, supported by her friend Siobhan (Christine Vickers) with gritty humour.

New-join Maggie (Sue Munro), self-conscious about her lack of fitness, is jollied along by super-fit Vicky (Janet West), while the long-suffering Yvonne (Linda Goodman-Powell) battles gamely with a blister.

The ladies are unexpectedly joined by Andrew (Chris Winney) at the last minute, despite Yvonne’s objections.

Other cast members appearing in the walk itself contributed impressively to the production, especially Babs Graham and Mark Hurst as marshalls. Special mention must also be given to Lucy Vickers, who stepped in at the last minute to replace the indisposed Laura Spendlow as Aerobics Instructor in this performance.

Eric Cahill’s set is simple but extremely effective, while the ‘cat’ costumes (especially Andrew’s!) present a challenge which Kay Rutherford-Doak and her team meet with flying colours.

Although humour is evident throughout, there are moments of great poignancy and sadness, and we defy anyone to hold back the tears in the final scene.

Review by John and Maggie Elliot.