Epsom Downs, Salisbury Playhouse

FIRST performed in 1977, this entertaining and thoughtprovoking play is a perceptive examination of the Epsom Derby, the famous horse race popular since 1780.

Nine tremendous actors play more than 50 different characters, from jockeys and horses through owners to bookies and punters.

The imaginative set is redolent of the undulating race course, the convincing sound effects include the arrival of wealthy owners’ helicopters, and the vivid atmosphere of Derby Day is conveyed through a rich variety of sub-plots.

From a tentative love story between a heather-selling gypsy girl and a redundant stable boy, to a born-again Christian couple with a revealed history of drinking and gambling, this sparkling play provides sharp snapshots of the English at the races in 1977.

The ghost of Emily Davison, who threw herself in front of a galloping horse during the 1913 Derby to highlight the cause of the suffragettes, provides an interesting conversation with a stressed mother who bets her family’s life savings on the race.

Direction from Salisbury debutant Gareth Machin is pacy and assured, while the variety of the multiple characters and the actors’ ability to portray them so beautifully, cement the play’s quality.

Runs until May 26.

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