Ladies In Retirement - performed May 1992

By Edward Percy and Reginald Denham

Performed with the kind permission of Samuel French

Director - Val Taylor


(in order of appearance)

Lucy Gilham Alison Brett
Leonora Fiske Val Taylor
Ellen Creed Jill Laurie
Albert Feather Chris Mason
Louisa Creed Jane Cousins
Emily Creed Viv Wheatley
Sister Theresa Liz Butler
Bates Chris Mead

Production Team

Jude Hussey, Jenny Rollings, Bruce Emeny, Maurice Barber, Greg Garrad, Alan Laurie, Charles Padgham, Jenny Glayzer, Val Taylor, Karen Carter, Moira Hutt, Chris Wheeler, Patience Ling, Viv Wheatley, and other volunteers not mentioned.

Awards & Nominations

Awards by the North East Essex Theatre Guild;
  • Best Production: Val Taylor as producer
  • Best Young Actor: Chris Mason
  • Technical Achievement: Brude Emeny and Greg Garrad
  • Best Costume: Karen Carter and Moira Hutt
  • Best Actress: Jill Laurie
  • Best Supporting Actress: Viv Wheatley

The Play

Miss Fiske, ex-actress, lives in a remote house with her companion, Ellen Creed. Ellen, who has devoted her life to her sisters, Louisa and Emily (simple-minded maiden ladies), invites them to visit her. These eccentric persons make themselves at home, but when Miss Fiske reminds Ellen it is time for them to go back, they are unwilling to do so. Miss Fiske and Ellen quarrel, and Ellen prepares to send her sisters to London. She has, however, secretly told them that they shall always remain with her. The sisters go for a drive, though Miss Fiske thinks they are leaving for good; the servants have been sent away (by Ellen), and Ellen and Miss Fiske are left alone together. On the return of the sisters Miss Fiske is gone--on a trip, Ellen says--and all three sisters settle down in what they regard as their own home. Meantime, Albert, nephew of the Creed sisters, who had paid a secret visit and got money from Miss Fiske, turns up again. He has robbed a bank and determines to hide with his aunts. Learning that Miss Fiske is away, and suspecting something, he pieces together the evidence. With the help of the maid Lucy, he lays a trap for Ellen, by reproducing in pantomime, in the moonlit living room, the scene of Ellenís murder of Miss Fiske. Ellen, who faints when she sees what she imagines is the ghost of her victim, plays a courageous but losing game. Knowing that Albert and Lucy realise what she has done, she plans for the security of her sisters, and gives up to the police.


The Manifest Theatre Groupís latest offering Ladies in Retirement, is a real team effort. Just seven players take part Ė eight if you count Chris Mead, heard but not seen by most of the audience. All pull together and give splendid performances, making the Manningtree-based groupís last production of the current season another memorable success. It would not be fair to single out any of the six main characters for praise but perhaps as the only make on stage Chris Mason deserves a special mention. He provides what little comedy there is, in what is described as ďan eerie Victorian thriller,Ē while there is a delightful cameo performance from Liz Butler as the nun, Sister Theresa. Alison Brett as the maid, victim Val Taylor, who also produced and directed the production, dotty sisters Janet Cousins and Viv Wheatley and Jill Laurie, the third sister who must provide for all the family, show the wealth and depth of the female talent in the Group. Written by Edward Percy and Reginald Denham the play, adapted from a true story, unfolds over seven scenes and set in 1885, it affords an opportunity for the wardrobe to shine.
Lesley Pallett

One of the reasons for the constant revival of this perennial old favourite is its preponderance of good parts for women. The other, and much more important motivation for choosing it, is simply that it is a rattling good, very well constructed play! Given a first-rate beamed set that caught the isolated atmosphere of the remote Essex marshes, Val Taylorís subtly-paces production built up the tension of relationships in the old house, and the obsessions, jealousies and resentments of its occupants most effectively. A generally well-balance cast of high competence involved themselves deeply in convincing characterisations. The director herself played the blowsy, pensioned-off ex-actress owner of the house with colourful economy. And Jill Laurieís severe, austere presence as the sole protector of her eccentric sisters, softened into moving steely emotion as the cul-de-sac of dreadful choice beckoned inexorably to her sober-clad Ellen. Jane Cousins, fluting away in her distracted, fluttering high pitch as the timorous Louisa and Viv Wheatley as the sour and secretive Emily differed and colluded in amusing, yet oddly affecting, combination as the cocooned and insulated existence came under threat of termination. Chris Mason, as the only visible male in the play, made a real Jack the Lad out of the plausible, devious and dangerous Albert. His cynical exploitation of the obvious physical attraction he had for Alison Brettís pretty apple-cheeked maid, Lucy, was potently expressed in unmistakable body language. Liz Butler heaved and bounced and conducted invisible orchestras, as the variably accented Sister Theresa, but the gossipy Christian good intent came across well enough. The heard, but not seen, Bates of Chris Mead, took the trouble to dress in full proper costume for the curtain call. The lighting underlined the menace and eerie impact of the play very imaginatively and the wardrobe was always in keeping with period, social class and background.
Jimmy James

Photo Shoot

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