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The Darling Buds of May at Limelight Theatre

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Larkin’ about with The Darling Buds of May
The Darling Buds of May Catherine Zeta-Jones Ma Larkin Pop Larkin Mariette stage theatre performance play Limelight Theatre WA Perth Wanneroo
Natasha Stiven is playing Mariette in a stage version of The Darling Buds of May – the role Catherine Zeta-Jones made famous.

A TV adaptation that shot Catherine Zeta-Jones to fame comes to Limelight Theatre this April.

Based on the H.E. Bates novel, The Darling Buds of May was a popular UK television show in the early 1990s focusing on the Larkin family – Pop, Ma and their six children – in Kent during the 1950s.

Pop is a loveable trader-cum-junk dealer who hasn't paid any taxes, which soon prompts a visit from tax inspector Cedric Charlton. Nicknamed Charley by the family, 17-year-old Mariette takes a shine to him and the Larkins try to introduce the reluctant taxman to the delights of country living.

Director Carryn McLean said she loved the 1990s TV series and first saw the play produced in 2000. "I love its time period when life seemed much simpler and, dare I say it, kinder than today," she said. "It certainly seems less stressful.

It's interesting to note the H.E. Bates story was adapted by MGM in the 1950s as The Mating Game with Debbie Reynolds and Tony Randall. I'm a Debbie Reynolds fan and have seen the film at least three times."

The Darling Buds of May Catherine Zeta-Jones Ma Larkin Pop Larkin Mariette stage theatre performance play Limelight Theatre WA Perth Wanneroo
The Darling Buds of May director Carryn McLean, centre, with actors Natasha Stiven and Jacob Turner.

After joining Patch Theatre in 1968, Carryn became a founding member of Stirling Players in 1970 and has appeared in numerous plays with the company over the years. She was made a life member in 2000 and has also directed No Time On, Saving Ardley, Anne of Green Gables, Little Women and Two Weeks with the Queen.

With Limelight Theatre, Carryn has stage-managed several shows including 42nd Street, Crazy for You, Half a Sixpence and Sunset Boulevard.

One of the main challenges with The Darling Buds of May is the use of a split set.

"The action constantly moves from one set to another so it's a bit of a challenge for me as the director, the actors and the technical crew," Carryn said. "The action is very fluid but we're all up to it – at the end of the day, it's a delightful family play."

Loz Haynes plays Ma Larkin in the Limelight Theatre production. Her 11-year-old daughter, Camryn Gillett, has also been cast as one of her on-stage children in the show.

"Ma Larkin is cheeky, fun and full of life, as well as being the old-fashioned traditional mum baking and making for her growing brood," she said. "She helps Pop on and off the farm and keeps her man happy by sharing him around the village, as long as he doesn't go too far and she always remains his number one.

"This is my first lead role, which is a challenge in itself, but I also need to bring my own touch of Ma to life because most people will be expecting a copy of what they know. Ma is just my cup of tea – she is 'perfick', as the character might say."

The Darling Buds of May plays at 8pm April 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 22, 23 and 24. Tickets are $21, $18 concession and $16 children – book on 0499 954 016 between 9am and midday, Monday to Friday, or at www.limelighttheatre.com.

Limelight Theatre is located on Civic Drive, Wanneroo.

The Darling Buds of May Catherine Zeta-Jones Ma Larkin Pop Larkin Mariette stage theatre performance play Limelight Theatre WA Perth Wanneroo
Pop Larkin (Tim Riessen, left), Ma Larkin (Loz Haynes), Mariette (Natasha Stiven) and Cedric "Charley

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Why? It's a chance to re-live the innocence of the 1950s in a stage version of a much-loved TV classic.
When: 8pm April 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 22, 23 & 24
Phone: 0499 954 016
Where: Limelight Theatre, Civic Drive, Wanneroo
Cost: $21 standard, $18 concession, $16 children
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