West End Girls

  • Written by: Ken Duncum. Based on the book 'West End Girls' by Barbara Tate.
  • Directed by: David O'Donnell
  • Circa One
  • 04 August − 01 September

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A true story – eye-opening, hilarious and moving – of love, life, laughter and sex

West End Girls is a world premiere adaptation of Barbara Tate’s autobiographical bestseller, brought to you by the writer/director team behind 2010’s Circa hit The Great Gatsby.

An innocent and lonely young woman finds a friend and the learning experience of a lifetime when she takes a job as a prostitute’s maid, and meets impossible, adorable, self-destructive Mae, the Queen of Soho.

The tumultuous and poignant friendship at the heart of this spellbinding tale drives a true story of adventure, survival and growing up, told with honesty and real heart.

Adult Themes. Content may offend.

Reviews of Barbara Tate’s West End Girls:

“A jawdropping account of 1940’s Soho prostitutes” – Lynn Barber, The Sunday Times

“fascinating, entertaining and heart-warming” – Sunday Express

“makes you laugh out loud, and cry in parts - but fills you with admiration of the human spirit.” – Amazon

World Premiere

Top Ten Bestseller (Book)

Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes (including interval)

Read about West End Girls on Circa's blog, drama on the waterfront: playwright Ken Duncum talks about writing the adaptation here and actors Victoria Abbott and Jessica Robinson discuss the bonds of friendship - on and off stage - here.

Cast and crew

Starring: Victoria Abbott (Masi), Jessica Robinson (The Great Gatsby, Eight), Heather O’Carroll (The Lead Wait, Hamlet Dies at the End), Bryony Skillington (Lonely Heart, Toys), Gavin Rutherford (Aladdin, C'mon Black), Hayley Sproull (Toys) and Paul Waggott (Eight, Dog Sees God).

Set Design - Andrew Foster
Lighting Design - Marcus McShane
Sound Design - Gareth Hobbs
Costume Design - Jane Boocock

Show times

04 August − 01 September

Tuesday and Wednesday 6.30pm

Thursday - Saturday 8pm

Sunday 4pm

$25 Specials: Friday 3 August and Sunday 5 August

Ticket prices

Adults $46

Seniors (65+) /Students/Beneficiaries $38

Friends of Circa (until 16 August) $33

Groups 6+ $39

Groups 20+ $36

Under 25 $25



By Ewen Coleman, The Dominion Post, 06 August 2012

Few people in NZ would have heard of Barbara Tate, the central figure of Circa Theatre's latest playWest End Girls. If they had it would probably have been as one of Britain's leading women artists. But unbeknown to many, her early life in the late 1940's began in Soho, London, not as an art student but as a prostitute's maid.

Her memoirs of this time were published in 2010, and local playwright Ken Duncum has adapted them into a lively and very entertaining play.

The year is 1948 and, on first arriving in Soho, Barbara (Victoria Abbott) starts out working in a bar. She then meets Mae (Jessica Robinson), a glamorous West End prostitute known as the Queen of Soho.

The two strike up an unlikely friendship and Barbara becomes Mae's maid. It was her job to greet Mae's customers, collect the money, clean and tidy, make tea for Mae and her friends and buy the supplies, including condoms by the box full.

They were two people from totally different backgrounds with opposing personalities but somehow they developed a bond, understood each other and supported each other through the highs and lows of working the streets of Soho.

It is around this that Duncum has cleverly constructed his play evoking the time and period very theatrically. In David O'Donnell' superbly crafted production, this is brought to life in a fast-paced, highly innovative and creative way.

Five actors play a multitude of characters who move in and out of Barbara and Mae's world. They also stand around the side of the stage ingeniously providing a myriad of sound effects.

Andrew Foster's set and AV designs evoke a real sense of the period and admirably aid the production.

While Barbara and Mae's life was initially filled with frenetic frivolity, tensions eventually develop between the two as the darker side of prostitution emerges, which tests their friendship. And so the production follows suit, the second half much more serious and poignant in comparison the many hilarious moments in the first half.

It is to the credit of the two actors in the title roles that they are able to bring some real humanity and depth to their characters showing the changing fortunes of their lives.

Abbott's portrayal of the prim and upright Barbara showed she had both a spirit of determination but with moments of vulnerability. Robison is the ever classy and sassy Mae, on the surface that is, but underneath fragile and easily broken.

This highly original production of a fascinating story, that is both amusing and thought provoking, is not to be missed.


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