Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see Paulette Randall's revival of jolly hockey sticks spoof Daisy Pulls It Off at the Park Theatre in London's distinctly unglitzy Finsbury Park.
Denise Deegan’s parody of period schoolgirl fiction became a surprise hit in 1983 and has been performed pretty regularly by schools, youth clubs, and local theatres ever since.
To be honest the show is not as good or as funny as I remember it when I saw it all those years ago. It was always a fairly light piece mind you, even if it does occasionally strike the right note of gaiety. The problem with this production though is that it plays that single note repeatedly... for the best part of two-and-a-half-hours.
Despite the double entendre in the title, sadly the play is as clean as a schoolmistress's whistle. No naughty puns. No rude jokes. No seasonal panto humour. Just parody. And you need to find a posh Girls Private School deeply hilarious to keep laughing at such gentle ribbing for an entire evening. And therein lies the issue. It simply tickles the ribs rather than roasts them. It's no St Trinian’s, no French and Saunders spoof.
That said, Deegan does inject some social comment into the show by making the Daisy a poor scholarship girl from the wrong side of town. Falsely accused of being a liar, a cheat and a sneak and obdurately confronting a wall of snobbery, Daisy eventually wins out. She sticks with her one true chum, proves brilliant academically, sings like an angel and caps it all by being a star on the hockey pitch and discovering lost treasure.
Randall's production uses just six chairs, a stepladder, a dolly and a good deal of imagination as in a wind-strewn cliff-top rescue evoked through billowing skirts. In an enthusiastic, seven-strong cast, Anna Shaffer sensibly plays it straight as the aspirational Daisy, giving everyone else licence to go over the top. Pauline McLynn is the funniest as Daisy’s staunch, brow-beating ally, but there is lively support from Clare Perkins as a deep-throated bully, Shobna Gulati as the even more sinister Sybil and Freddie Hutchins doubling as the gymslipped Belinda and a dubious Russian music teacher.
It's a dated piece that might in another 35 years’ time find a new audience which, judging by the empty seats around us, it has rather failed to do on this occasion.