Denise Deegan’s much-loved and Olivier-winning Daisy Pulls It Off is a deserved classic. A parody of girl’s adventure stories of the 1920s and 1930s, this is a tale of heroism and daring, slathered in delicious and very deliberate irony.
But Daisy… is the sort of play that only works if the performers get the tone right. Happily, the cast in Park Theatre’s production, directed by Paulette Randall, do it perfectly – it’s a hilarious show.
When scholarship girl Daisy Meredith (Anna Shaffer) arrives at Grangewood School for Girls, she is determined to make the most of the experience and make the school proud of her. But school bully and out-and-out snob Sybil (Shobna Gulati) has other ideas. Sybil is determined that Daisy should go, and along with her slimy sidekick Monica (Clare Perkins), makes life hell for the new arrival.
Even as Daisy impresses everyone with her academic, musical and sporting prowess, Sybil is using every dirty trick in the book to make Daisy look like a cheat, a liar and a sneak. Meanwhile, Daisy and her new best friend Trixie (Pauline McLynn) are determined to save the school from closure by finding the hidden treasure belonging to the near-bankrupt owners of Grangewood, the Beaumont family. They spend hours deciphering clues and pursuing leads, determined that Russian music teacher Mr Scoblowski (Freddie Hutchins) doesn’t get there first and keep the treasure for himself.
With all that going on, and with most of the cast playing multiple roles, this play could be an utter mess. Except, it works perfectly. Costume, accent and wig changes often take place on stage – and are part of the performance, while the fact of the colour-, gender- and age-blind casting – much talked-about in pre-publicity for this show – barely registers, and is all part of the fun.
One of the more interesting aspects of Daisy Pulls It Off is that the play isn’t focused purely on making fun of the class system or private education (although it still does), it’s principal purpose is wring the most laughs out everything it possibly can. It does this through gloriously over-the-top parodies of 1920s/1930s British film acting and a script packed with detailed exposition and period slang – all played utterly straight by the cast.
If you’re after a ripping laughing this Christmas, but one with a tiny bit of bite, it’s hard to think of a better show than Daisy Pulls It Off.