Review of Ladies in Lavender at the Royal and Derngate, by Steve Mills.

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A STORY set in the 1930s which stars two sisters and features classical music as a plot point is hardly the show to appeal to a wider audience.

Ladies in Lavender, based on the film of the same name starring Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, is about two elderly sisters who’s lives are changed after they discover a young man washed up on the shore near to their home.

But this is a story simply about unrequited love. A tale of falling head over heels then having your heart broken and one which everyone can relate to regardless of age and gender.

Hayley Mills’ role as Ursula is astonishing in the part played by Dench in the movie. Her performance left not one dry eye in the house as the story reaches its end. She works well with Belinda Lang who plays British stiffness but never ever resorts to caricature.

All of the performers are superb with particular mention for Robert Rees playing the young man and Carol Macready who lightens the mood with some wickedly funny one liners.

There’s a magical feel to this show helped by some wonderfully haunting music from Nigel Hess which also appears on the film.

It is never intrusive but always enhances every scene it is heard to devastating effect.

This is a rather brilliant production, and Liz Ascroft’s well designed set has incredible attention to the period detail yet also works as several different environments at once.

It is a wonderful, well thought out set which is deserving of high praise.

All of this gives an idyllic fairytale atmosphere to Ladies in Lavender. And yet, at its heart, it is a love story and one which is tragic, uplifting and poignant all at the same time.