REVIEW: Five strong leading ladies star in bittersweet tale of friendship

Picture by Helen Perry
Picture by Helen Perry

The Dixie Swim Club, Wivelsfield Little Theatre

Seldom are theatregoers treated to, not one, but five leading ladies.

The Dixie Swim Club, written by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten, and directed by Alan Carter, has this distinction.

A college swimming team had maintained close links with each other over 33 years, meeting each year for a long weekend at a beach cottage on the outer banks of North Carolina. Played out on an excellent set, their characters, and life experiences were very different.

Happily married and sporty Sheree, the former swim team captain played by Val Orchin, continued to insist on a healthy food and life regime and ruthlessly organised her friends’ activities for the entire weekend.

Glamorous Lexie (Maggie McNally) was obsessed with her appearance and, over the years, discarded a string of lovers. She evoked genuine sympathy when a life-changing secret was revealed.

Brilliant Dinah (Veronica Matthews) had forged a career in law, but found meaningful relationships difficult, seeking consolation in alcohol. By her team’s acceptance, she learnt the true nature of friendship.

Vernadette (Elizabeth Burton) had had the hardest life, and was downtrodden by her marriage to a no-hoper, and by her criminal son. She developed a wry sense of humour for defence, and the annual meetings gave her much needed support.

Finally, Jeri Neal (Suzanne Bevan on her WLT debut) became a nun after graduating, and arrived for one beach weekend pregnant. She relied on these precious times to talk over her troubles.

The director and his cast gave the characters a believable depth and vitality, enhanced by the setting and costumes, giving Wivelsfield once again, another memorable production.

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