DDF Review: ‘Ladies Who Lunch’

By Modupe Daramola

The play is centred around the lives of four friends that have afternoon tea together after thirty years apart. Sally and Jean arrive early, giving them enough time to catch up before the others arrive. Vera walks in and there is an immediate change in the atmosphere. The tension between Sally and Vera becomes obvious. Sandra is running late but finally arrives with her daughter Lorena, who becomes the topic of discussion. The ladies dive into motherhood and its ups and down. Along the line, they talk about happiness, the struggles with cancer, cheating spouses, careers and giving up your dreams to become a mother.

The performers impressively build a strong relationship with the characters they play. The atmosphere exhibits the right amount of tension. Their anger, passion, judgement, opinions are all voiced out appropriately and in quality language. Each performer is able to successfully tell their whole life stories through sarcasm, body language, muffled tones and gestures. At points, they do not even have to speak, their body language is able to express it all for them. The writing seems to reveal little about Sandra’s character, unlike the other characters, she does not talk about herself, although I am able to derive some things about her from the performer’s body language and constant glares at her daughter. The roles of the waiter and Jean provide ephemeral comic relief to the room, breaking up some of the tension within the play. The play comes to an end with Sally describing her life difficulties and the performer shows clear interaction with this character. I feel the passion and emotion, and when Sally cries during her speech, I find it hard to hold back tears. Overall, it is an impeccable performance by the actresses.

The play is set in a small and empty cafe with minimal decor. The lighting is dim and creates a gloomy mood in the room. The background music is slow and French, which creates this beautiful aura. A fire alarm goes on for five seconds, loud and clearly able to disrupt the show, but the acting is not compromised. They carry on as if it never happened. The show must go on indeed! Sally and Lorena wear bright red outfits, a strong contrast to the other characters who wear dull-coloured and loosely-fitting clothing. The characters of Sally and Lorena stand out, they do not conform to the bonds of society concerning the views of motherhood. They stand out as independent and powerful. At the end of the lunch when both of them are alone on the stage, it sends an unexplainable surge through the whole room. All I could think was ‘wow’!

The play was not what everyone expected it to be; it is a painful picture of reality.  When Sally pours out her emotions to her friends, she is eventually still left behind all alone, none of them knowing what to say. What it makes me feel is fear, it is one of the underlying and common emotions between these ladies, who all – except Sally and Lorena, claim to enjoy motherhood. The other emotion was unhappiness – Sally asks all of them if they are truly happy and none could match her response with the enthusiasm that came with having true happiness. I did not expect it to be that meaningful, a small play of only 6 characters with minimal décor. All the characters have massive impacts on the audience. Sally is the clear representation of the bitterness of life, Lorena is the modern woman who never experiences the joys of motherhood, Vera, Sandra and Jean are not happy but they pretend, falling back on their children to give their life meaning. It is deeply insightful, interesting, conversational, controversial, eye-opening and raw. It is a huge slap of reality. I thoroughly enjoyed the play and it deserved the ovation from the audience that it received.

‘Ladies who Lunch’ runs on Friday 8th at 8pm and Saturday 7th at 2.30pm at the Mark Hillery Arts Centre, Collingwood College.

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