Ladies in Lavender

Bolton Little Theatre, Hanover Street, Bolton, BL1 4TG

To Saturday, May 18

THIS gentle and appealing comedy was initially created as a screenplay by actor Charles Dance for his directorial debut, his inspiration coming from a story by prolific (but largely forgotten) author William J Locke.

Set in 1936, the story centres around spinster sisters Janet and Ursula Widdington, who have the genteel tedium of their existence in a sleepy Cornish village interrupted by the appearance of an enigmatic, handsome Polish castaway. The scene is then set for heartbreak and humour as the intrusion of this young man upsets the equilibrium of the siblings’ relationship.

Director Carol Butler successfully brings out the wistful nostalgia of a bygone era, leading her cast through the subtle nuances of the script and balancing the mood of the play expertly. Irene Smith and Margaret Marks portray the sisters with aplomb, Janet’s stronger personality complementing the more nervous and dithery Ursula, excellently conveying the pathos of this young man substituting for the child neither of them ever had.

Nicholas Eccles is mesmerising as Polish immigrant Andreas, complete with convincing accent and striking appearance, whilst good support comes from Julie Burrell (as brusque housemaid Dorcas), Stephen Knowles (as lonely widower Dr Mead), and Meredith Collinson (as Russian artist Olga Danilof).

The composite set successfully presents the various locations throughout the piece, whilst sound, lighting and props are all spot on. Costumes (by Janet Hardman and Elizabeth Tatman) are perfect for the period.

Runs until Saturday.

Peter Haslam