THE GARRICK use many talented women in their productions and none more so than in the Lauriston Studio’s production of Playhouse Creatures by April de Angelis.

It is about the first attempts of women to tread the boards.

Set in 1663 when women also began to write plays and even become theatre shareholders, it focuses on the lives of five actresses.

The public regard them as whores and their pay is half of their male counterparts.

Their playhouse projections are mostly amusing as they present exaggerated melodrama rather than plain drama.

After the interval many of the characters speaks in monologues which reveal their innermost thoughts and fears.

There are few dry eyes when Claire Cummins delivers Elizabeth Farley’s tragic story.

Although this play has funny moments, it is undoubtedly a tragedy and the intimacy of the Lauriston Studio helps to illustrate this.

Although all the women get some success, it doesn’t mean their lives are equally successful.

Most well known, even today, is Nell Gwyn, played by Tabitha Rose Hughes in an amazing performance.

Nell starts off as an oyster seller, but always dreams of becoming an actress.

Tabitha portrays her as the ‘pretty and witty’ Nell Gwyn of early days. No wonder Charles II falls madly in love with her sixteen-year-old charms and makes her his mistress.

Even then, she retains her naivety.

Tabitha’s Nell isn’t just a pretty face. She has empathy, particularly when helping Elizabeth Farley her equally ambitious rival, who falls on hard times.

All the women are under the shadow of men. None more so than Rebecca Marshall trying to escape from a failed romance. Meg Sally Royle plays her as feisty and quite ruthless with her fellow performers.

Another prominent woman is Mary Betterton, played by Lindsey Barker, who cannot conceal her intelligence. But she too is influenced by her husband, a theatre owner, who she unsuccessfully asks to make her a shareholder.

He condemns her for becoming older by driving her to constantly repeat the lines of Lady Macbeth though she holds sway with the other actresses.

Ruth Metcalfe plays Doll Common, the oldest and wisest of the troupe always realising that her age could affect her place as a performer.

This beautifully written play, directed by award winning Barry Purves, is a credit to the theatre, not forgetting Mike Shaw’s costume team and Geoff Scullard’s effective lighting and sound.

• Playhouse Creatures is at the Garrick’s Lauriston Studio until Tuesday, September 4. For tickets, telephone 0161 928 1677.

Star rating: * * * * *.