CHESTERFIELD: The Candy Girls at the Pomegranate stirs fond memories

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Sweet memories of a time when the air over Chesterfield was scented with the aroma of Fruit Salads, Refreshers or Black Jacks have come flooding back this weekend with the premiere of a new play about an old favourite.

It’s several years since the town’s Trebor factory turned out its last batch of sweets and the bulldozers moved in to to raze the building to the ground but nothing can decimate the recollections of the ‘family’ who worked there.

Their lively tales of initiation rituals, pranks, the three-day week, cameraderie, the Candy Queen competition and dancing at the Aquarius nightclub have inspired a fond and uplifting tribute to Trebor, the best place to work, ever!

Directed by Carole Copeland, who has a cameo role in the play, The Candy Girls is performed mainly by the Pomegranate Youth Theatre whose members do a great job in capturing the banter, bravado and sheer bloody-mindedness of workers on the factory floor.

While the workers they portray bickered and bitched about one another, if one of their number was unfairly treated by a superior then “the family” would show their displeasure by downing tools.

Tales of a new worker being sent for a bucket of steam, of birthday boys being dipped in vats of coloured water, of cricket matches in works time and of a hungover worker who slept it off in a packing crate feature in this delighful confectionery.

The repetitive monotony of jobs on the conveyor belt is beautifully captured in copycat movement with bang-on timing.

And the play finds humour in the Friday ritual of deep-cleaning the factory floor by bringing to life the sweets which stuck to it, including a tipsy wine gum and an unpopular liquorice.

By the medium of video, the assortment of sweets is seen riding a train in Queen’s Park en route to The Apprentice-style elimination contest fronted by Lady Sugar which is a neat link between the old and the new.

Video is also used for workers to share their stories with the audience, although at times it is hard to pick up everything they say.

One of the best scenes in The Candy Girls is the workers letting their hair down at the Aquarius - girls dressed to the nines dancing around their handbags, boys suited and booted and on the pull. Live music from The Shambles and The Pitz playing 70s and 80s cover songs at alternate performances add to the atmosphere of the piece.

It would be easy for the play to end on a bitter note, the Christmas party coinciding with Trebor’s takeover by Cadbury - but it doesn’t. Instead, the tone is kept sweet by a proposal of marriage to Janet, played by Emma Jones, from Eddie, played by Simon Dickinson.

The play contains a sprinkling of original songs which have been composed by Rob Laughlin whose talents extend to the role of playing factory boss Mr Richards. And professional actress Sue Earnshaw is priceless as Rene, the factory worker with a bad back.

The Candy Girls was written by Richard Stone and the Pomegranate Playwrights, following an award from the Heritage Lottery All Our Stories Fund.

Best be quick if you want to see it - the final performance is on Sunday, May 5, at 6.30pm.

* The play is one of the highlights of the town’s first community arts festival which is running throughout the Bank Holiday.

Trebor also featured at a free party in the Winding Wheel on Saturday, May 4, where sweets figured large in the decorations. Treats of all shapes and sizes were displayed in models, cut-outs and drawings, there were two giant models of cans of pop and yards and yards of colourful bunting, erected and created by students from Chesterfield College and pupils from nursery and junior schools in the district.

Skating displays from the Twisted Vixen Contact Roller Derby team, music from Grassoline, burlesque and pole dancing from the Ga Ga girls and a pedal-powered disco by Charity Shop DJ provided something for everyone at the Pick and Mix party.

* Have you seen The Candy Girls and what were your views on it? What have you enjoyed about the Community Arts Festival? Email your comments to: gay.bolton@derbyshiretimes.co.uk

GAY BOLTON