It is 1922. Four ladies rent a castle in Italy to escape the drabness of an English winter and look for some magic in their lives.
Alison Griffiths-Barnes played Lottie, an annoyingly cloying woman who, fed up of her domineering husband, Mellersh (Dominic Swarbrick) decides to rent a castle in sunny Italy where she hopes she will find her little bit of heaven.
She asks a lady from her church, Rose (Josephine Broadley), to accompany her. Rose is reluctant but her author husband, Frederick (Mike Davison) is going off alone, yet again, on a book signing tour so, worn down by Lottie’s mithering, she allows herself to be persuaded.
Needing two more guests to make the trip affordable, Lottle finds the glamorous Lady Caroline Bramble (Kimberley Bradshaw), who has taken to the bottle and Mrs Graves (Ann Dennis), a bitter, cantankerous widow barking out orders to all and sundry to the displeasure of the cheerful Mediterranean maid, Costanza (Trilby Beetham)
The first act takes place in London and a depressingly dark and drab set doubles as both Lottie and Rose’s home in turn, necessitating constant scene changes whereby the curtain went up and down more times than the proverbial bride’s nightie and which broke up the continuity of the action.
In the background, the sound of running water, reminiscent of a broken cistern, denoted rain.
All this changed for Act Two when the curtain opened to a magnificent, brightly lit display of a sunny Mediterranean terrace with orange walls covered in wisteria.
Here, the women come to terms with their lives and, as Lottie predicted, realise where their happiness really lies. Rose sends for her husband but he has already decided to join her and they find a new togetherness.
The philandering Frederick also turns up, to see Lady Caroline, only to find his wife there. But, all is well, he realises it is Rose he wants and Lady Caroline walks into the sunset with the young owner of the castle, Mr. Wilding (Dean Wallace).
There is a moment when Mellersh leaps out of the bathroom clutching a towel, after being scalded by an errant heater, thereby affording the audience a view of his naked bottom which brought gasps (of excitement?) from around the hall.
But overall, the uplifting emotion of the evening was one of delight, that heaven is to be found under your nose, you only have to recognise it.
Well-acted by the cast under Gillian Hodgson’s direction and a play that will appeal to everone who enjoys ‘Downton Abbey’.