REVIEW: Intelligent, tender and vulnerable exploration of unrequited love on Kenilworth stage

Janet (Chris Carpenter), Ursula (Geraldine Cousin) and Andrea (Guy Devine) in Ladies in Lavender. Picture: Pete Weston
Janet (Chris Carpenter), Ursula (Geraldine Cousin) and Andrea (Guy Devine) in Ladies in Lavender. Picture: Pete Weston

Nick Le Mesurier reviews Ladies in Lavender at the Talisman Theatre, Kenilworth

When a gorgeous young man is washed up on a lonely Cornish beach it is bound to cause a stir. The young man is Andrea Marowski (Guy Devine), a Polish musician washed overboard in a storm while travelling to New York in the hope of a career. He is discovered by two elderly spinster sisters, Ursula and Janet Widdington (Geraldine Cousin and Christine Carpenter). To them it is as if a god has descended upon them, and as they nurse him back to health they fall in love with him, worshipping him but also seeking to keep him as their own. He in return seems devoted to them, until temptation comes along in the form of Olga Danilof (Leigh Walker) and the opportunity of a lifetime elsewhere.

Ladies in Lavender has become a classic on the amateur circuit, and rightly so. It is a wonderfully rich tale of unrequited love, which gives each of the cast a deep and complex part to get to grips with. The premise, two elderly ladies fawning over a young man, could so easily have been treated mawkishly. But their love for the beautiful boy is so tender, so vulnerable, one would have to be made of stone not to be moved by it.

Director and cast each deserve credit for their intelligent and gifted portrayal of love across the generations, but special mention must be made of Geraldine Cousin as Ursula. Her devotion to Andrea, and the pain of her loss when he leaves were palpable. The show received a standing ovation on the night I was there, and it was thoroughly deserved.

* Ladies in Lavender runs until Saturday November 11. Visit talismantheatre.co.uk or call 01926 856548 to book.