A parody of the wholesome adventure stories – seen in popular boarding school novels of the 20th Century – Daisy Pulls It Off follows the irresistible exploits of scholarship student Daisy Meredith and the unspeakable snobbery she encounters during her time at the prestigious Grangewood School for Girls.
It’s ironic that Guilford School of Acting (an institution charging approximately £10,000 a year), should choose a play that criticises elitism and privilege for their graduating showcase of BA Actor-Musicians. What could have been an inspired opportunity to inject social comment on its all-white, all-British cast; director Nicholas Scrivens instead opts for a more traditional revival, and Daisy Pulls It Off becomes the dated nostalgia-fest writer Denise Deegan first poked fun at.
What is innovative about this version of Deegan’s 1980’s classic is the musicality that flows throughout the centre of the play. GSA is one of the most highly regarded theatre schools in the UK and given the nature of the course, there is an astounding level of musicianship on show – even if it is somewhat underutilised. The employment of live music from almost every orchestral family proves a very successful tool in shaping the narrative and facilitating the various scene transitions; the famous hockey match sequence being by far the most inventive moment of the night.
The oak panelled halls, grey tabards and hanging ancestral portraits of Ilona Dearden’s production design perfectly reflect the refinery and esteem of the illustrious finishing school. Amid a somewhat variable cast, Marina Papadopoulos stands out as protagonist Daisy and Katy Ellis gives a winning performance as madcap sidekick Trixie Martin. 1920’s intonation or not, the fact that Daisy is the poshest girl at Grangewood, sharply contradicts her working class, East End roots and although the commitment and verve of the cast has to be admired; technical issues, flubbed lines and flat jokes expose the production for what it is – a student showcase, not a West End production.