David Gilmore is bringing Daisy Pulls It Off, the award-winning comedy/drama that he first directed in the West End in 1983, back to Shaftesbury Avenue. Set in a girls' public school in the 1920's, it's a brilliant pastiche of the girls' adventure stories that were a feature of pre-war children's literature.
Gilmore's varied directing credits include the internationally popular musical Grease, the Cole Porter revue Swell Party and Annie Get Your Gun as well as Melvyn Bragg's The Hired Man and Neil Simon's Chapter Two. He also won an Olivier last year for Defending the Caveman at the Lyric.
Theatrenow caught him in a lunchtime break in auditions, which were held at the Apollo — next door to the Lyric where Daisy Pulls It Off will be staged in April.
How was he first associated with Daisy Pulls It Off? What attracted him to it? "I was running the Southampton Theatre in the early 1980's when I had a letter from some women's group saying they wanted to encourage theatres to have a sort of 'support women in theatre year,' and would I be prepared to help? I said yes, and if they'd like to send me a play by or about women for me to look at, that would be fine." What was the response? "I only got one! But fortunately it was Denise Deegan's Daisy Pulls It Off, which is by a woman, about a girls' public school and has an overwhelmingly female cast."
The original cast contained no star names. Why was that, and are you continuing the tradition? "We were a rep theatre at Southampton, and Daisy Pulls It Off was part of a season, so we didn't need or want to look for big outside names. When it came to a London transfer, Andrew Lloyd Webber, who was the producer, took a gamble and let me keep it that way. We brought about 50% of the original cast into town — the others had new jobs or contracts — and to have cast stars would not only have gone against the spirit of the piece but unbalanced its performance."
What's Daisy's secret? "Its great fun! As well as being funny, however, it tells an exciting story, has dramatic tension and is very involving. The secret is to play it straight rather than for laughs — the laughs will come of their own accord if it's played well."
Did you know it was going to be a hit when you first staged it? "You can never predict anything in the theatre! Denise sent ten copies of the play to different theatres, and the other nine all turned it down."
Do you enjoy auditions? "Yes. The idea of them can be a bit depressing, but once you start you soon get into the rhythm of them, and it's fascinating to see who'll come in the door. There's a huge amount of talent out there, and one day you'll get lucky and one of them will walk into your audition room. We've already seen a lot of very good actors so far, and we're just getting them down to the last 50 before I actually cast the 18 parts." With which Dave Gilmore hurries back to continue the process of bringing Daisy Pulls It Off back to the West End.
Details of casting and dates will be announced as soon as they are confirmed.
—by Paul Webb Theatrenow