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Freud’s Last Session

By Mark St Germain

Directed by Adam Cook

Strange Duck Productions

Cremorne Theatre

Queensland Performing Arts Centre

South Bank

Brisbane

 

THIS two-hander is short, sharp, powerful, and gripping as two fine actors battle in a minefield of opposing ideas and beliefs. It’s the father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud versus the young writer C. S. Lewis, creator of the Narnia yarns, played by William Zappa and Andrew Henry.

The show is advertised with a 90 minute running time. It lasted only 65 minutes on opening night, but it was an intriguing 65 minutes. The script was brilliantly written, brimming with esoteric ideas and arguments and the actors created memorable characters in a swashbuckling duel of words.

The play was inspired by the fact that Freud, in 1939, was visited by a young, un-named, Oxford professor. Could it have been Lewis? And if so what sort of meeting would it have been?

Freud was 83, world famous, dying from mouth cancer and a declared atheist while Lewis was a young former atheist who converted strongly to Catholicism. He had written religious books but was yet to move onto the Narnia books.

So the author did the classic “what if” and wrote an engrossing play that gripped whether the subject was religion of Nazi Germany.

The scene was set in England on the day England entered World War II in Freud’s study; an impressive book-lined room, with desk, chairs, armchair and couch. Add to that a 1930s radio and telephone and the era is truly created. Nazi Germany is set to invade Poland; Adolph Hitler is “losing patience”; air-raid sirens are tested and all citizens carry gasmasks. Chamberlain is making speeches on the radio and Freud is trying to contact his daughter because as prosthesis in his mouth is causing him agony. It is these insistent interruptions that break up the academic arguments between the two antagonists and brings reality into the ivory tower. God, love, sex and the meaning of life come in for lucid argument, only two weeks before Freud chooses to take his own life. And yet with such deep subjects, the script has a lot of humor and more than a few laughs.

With such an age difference you would think that a contest between arrogant youth and implacable old age would result in total stalemate with no one listening to the other, but here the arguments flowed, counter arguments followed as the two sharp minds sought to explain rather than score points. And the arguments are still there today. Lewis loves God, Freud scoffs at the idea of this Supreme Being. “Religion is nothing that a power game,” says Freud.

God is about love, maintains Lewis. Suicide is the worse crime, he adds, appalled when Freud talks of plans to end his own suffering. Ending my life is my choice not some God’s, says Freud. Every argument is lucid.

They would certainly put today’s politicians to shame.

Maybe they should all see the play to understand what true argument is all about. Maybe then something good might come from Canberra.

Engrossing as the script was, it needed actors who could not only create the characters but could fence verbally with each other and keep a simple word play alive.

William Zappa was forceful and at the same time vulnerable as the pain of his terminal cancer engulfed him and his professional persona dropped. He changed from bombastic master to a suffering human who accepted help from his antagonist. It was a lovely performance.

As Lewis Andrew Henry, wondered why the great atheist psychiatrist wanted to see him, a religious scholar who had had a Pauline, road to Damascus, conversion. He thought he was in for chastisement after lampooning the man in a book.

He was hesitant at first but grew more confident as Freud questioned and probed his beliefs. He needed to match Zappa in performance – and he did.

In the end I came away with the idea that the audience was watching a wise man and a fool – and it didn’t matter whose side you were on.

Freud's Last Session ran for a record 2 years Off Broadway and, deservedly in my view, won the Best New Off Broadway Play Award in 2011. It continues its Brisbane run until December. Bookings: QTIX 136 246.

ERIC SCOTT November 28, 2014

The Innkeeper, the Writer, the Pirate and the Detective

By Debra Chalmers

Directed by Dale Murison and Debra Chalmers

Centenary Theatre Group

Chelmer Community Hall,

Corner of Halsbury and Queenscroft streets

Chelmer

 

ERIC SCOTT Never 10, 2014

IT’S unusual to see a program of one-act plays in theatres these days, but Centenary Theatre Group is not your usual company. They like to do something different and have always been big on supporting local writing talent. In this case the company has premiered two new plays by Debra Chalmers and made an entertaining evening out of it. It was also a short night, with the first play running for 40 minutes and the second for just over half an hour.

Money from Heaven and The Innkeeper, the Writer, the Pirate and the Detective are the plays and they are both well-written with some sharp comedy that won a lot of laughs on opening night.

The opening play was the story of a failed bank robber – Joe, who was driving the getaway car for his mate Frankie. In the rush Frankie throws the money into the car, Joe takes off and Frankie cops a body full of bullets.

When Joe arrives home in absolute panic, a condition that Paul McGibbon portrayed very well, Frankie’s ghost turns up asking for character reference that will help him get into heaven.

He has written his own reference of course and it is a complete pack of lies. Frankie has spent his life as a crook. Brian Hinselwood makes a nice fist of this completely amoral and conscienceless man who simply does not understand why Joe is reticent about putting his name to the reference.

As they argue Joe’s wife Maggie, played nicely tongue-in-cheek by Meredith Sinclair, enters. She can’t see Frankie, until a knock on the head gives her second sight and she sees everything including a somewhat exasperated, no-nonsense Angel who is trying to get Frankie back into care. She was played by Meg Hinselwood, complete with wings and furry halo, with good comic timing.

Then in comes Fr Michael, played very nicely by Gary Kliger, a mercenary priest who is happy to sign anything for money. His comic delivery created a memorable character.

It’s the cunning Maggie who delivers the twist at the end.

The Innkeeper, the Writer, the Pirate and the Detective is written as a radio play in which the actors in the first play are joined by Kurt Lerps, Jo Robinson, Sarah Fowkes and the author herself,

Absolute star of this how however was lighting man Tristan Holland, who played the role of the sound man who provided all the effect with a lovely dead-pan delivery. The play was a clever mix with author (Deborah Chalmers) in a hotel room writing her “bodice ripper” novel with Brian Hinselwood as the pirate who had kidnapped her and was keen to do some bodice ripping.

In the hotel there is a murder and some clever plotting brings in all the characters, suspects and the canny detective, another nice job from Gary Kliger. Whodunit: The bride or the groom, the Innkeeper, the Accountant or the Neighbour?

It’s a lot of fun waiting to find out.

This was a clever idea writing a radio play specifically for the stage and it worked well as the disparate actors wandered on stage, dressed as casual as they liked and looking bored and disorganised until it was their turn to switch into character, as they sat on tall stools in front of the old fashioned microphones.

It was a lot of fun and kept the audience chuckling for the entire half hour.

It was a happy hour or so in the little community hall and cast and crew are to be complimented for providing such a different soert of night at the theatre.

Blak Electric

Conceived and directed by Stephen Lloyd Helper

Presented by QPAC and the Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts

Cremorne Theatre

Queensland Performing Arts Centre

South Bank

Brisbane

 

ERIC SCOTT November 8, 2014

THE end of year production from the Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts in Brisbane always has something to say as well as showcasing the talents of the students. Blak Electric was no exception.

It brought 40 students on stage in a show that ran for 75 minutes and contained lots of high energy dancing, original songs, some good acting and a few home-written stories – and there was one particular scene that was as gripping as any professional tale. 

There were times when the show looked like an end of school production and others showed a much more professional approach, but the mistakes did not really matter for the production on the whole was entertaining with some good characterisation of the four main characters. On top of that the enjoyment of the students on stage was infectious.

There was a top notch professional team behind them too, with Nikki J Price’s terrific fight choreography and Josh McIntosh’s design. Then there was Glenn Hughes designed lighting and Wil Hughes’ sound design. Top that off with international star director Stephen Lloyd Helper and heaps of backstage hands and you can see the aim was for a high standard production.

The show took a look at the problems of outback Aborigines who decided to leave behind their families, land, and culture to seek new life in the urban sprawl of the big city.

There were three main stories about an ambitious young man who wanted to become a big businessman, one who yearned to become an Aussie Rules star and girl These roles were played by by Andrew Toby,  Benjamin Creek, and Jessica Cross. We followed their adventures in the big city, where indigenous culture was buried under the worst of the western culture and familiar problems where highlighted.

Our footballer found fame and fortune and an image makeover. He was fitted out in a well cut suit and shirt and tie in a very funny scene. His ego was boosted by the adulation of young girls. And he found the bottle. This led to the well-documented footballers’ drunken nights out and violence against women. The nightclub scene where Kye dredged the bottom of his life was terrific and so realistic and atmospheric it had the audience sitting in stunned silence.

Then he had to face his demons.

The ambitious boy succeeded beyond his dreams; he graduated through mining company hierarchy to the top. He forgot the warning he received from his elders when he left until he realised he was raping the land of his ancestors and ruining the life of his own people.

Again there were demons to be faced.

The girl was not so lucky in her quest. She was rejected as an artist by gallery after gallery and, until her sister came to visit with good news, she was not enjoying her city life.

These stories were interwoven with song and dance with the help of Leonard Donohue as the Sweeper, the man with the broom and narrator of the show. It wasn’t perfect but it was fun.

Once Upon a Midnight: An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe

Four plays adapted from Poe’s short stories

Directed by Sandra Harman

New Farm Nash Theatre

Merthyr Uniting Church Hall

New Farm

Brisbane

 

ERIC SCOTT November 3, 2014

 

THIS Halloween special opening night was not as scary as it promised to be. In fact it wasn’t scary at all. The dark words of Edgar Allan Poe in this production did not translate to the visual. His stories and poems were written to appeal to the imagination and the fears are inner fears rather than Gothic ghosts and action.

So watching actors tell me they were afraid of something lacked suspense and the underlying fear that is present in Harold Pinter’s stage works for instance.

The four plays were: The Masque of the Red Death adapted by J. E. Ballentyne Jnr; Ligeia adapted by Brisbane playwright Ron Kelly; The System of Dr Tarr and Professor Fether adapted by Robert Mason; and The Black Cat, adapted by playwright cast member Elodie Boal.

The cast, many playing several roles, worked hard and obviously enjoyed what they were doing - and there was an interesting new aspect when the opening scene was performed in the courtyard and the first play after interval was performed in the round in the auditorium.

It was a good experiment that worked well; for me for those bits of action were the most enjoyable of the night.

The Masque of the Red Death is the tale of Prince Prospero and 1000 of his courtiers and nobles who retire to a walled abbey to escape the Red Death, a plague that is devastating his country. It, like the 1964, movie with Vincent Price, combines the original tale with another – Hop Frog, a character played by Paul Careless.

Prospero feels that he has cheated death twice and so is not taking the risk again. He and his friends have no feelings for the peasants outside the locked abbey. He organises a masked ball and bans the colour red, but an unknown figure in red appears. This where the main problem with this opening play occurs: the masked ball needs a cast of thousands so the man in red can be seen and lost in the crowd. But with only five or six people on stage the red figure stands out like a sore thumb and is not the least bit menacing. He looked rather uncomfortable in fact.

Ligeia was one of a trio of adaptations of Poe’s work by Ron Kelly and told the story of Joseph (Brendon James) who mourned his dead wife Ligeia (Samantha Lamont) to the point of madness, even into a new marriage with Rowena (Taryn Crispin).

When she became ill Ligeia swore she would never leave her husband under any circumstance. Joseph took her at her word and listened for her voice and saw her ghost. The Doctor (Joshua Bird) constantly tells him he is hallucinating and tries to cure Joseph of his obsession, to no avail

The actors did their best, but once more the underlying edge of fear was missing. Brendon James however did create a creditable performance in the final scene of the play.

After the interval came what turned out to be the best piece of the night - The System of Dr Tarr and Professor Fether. Here psychiatrist Lamonde (Joshua Byrd) visits an asylum where manager Maillard (Paul Careless) is to explain a new method of treating the inmates. When he arrives a dinner party with some very strange guests is in full swing.

The dinner guests were excellently insane as they showed symptoms of many psychological conditions. Maillaid called them his staff. However it was so obvious that they were all mad as hatters that the final cry from Lamonde that the inmates had taken over the asylum had no impact at all. But it was entertaining.

The final play was The Black Cat, another tale of obsession as Edgar (Reagan Warner) blames the cat for his (unstated) misfortunes. The play begins in a prison cell, so we know Edgar has done something wrong, and that the axe permanently on stage has been used to malevolent effect.

My problem with this was that there was no slow build-up to paranoia. Edgar was raving angry right from the start and we didn’t really know why except that he didn’t like the cat. The poor cat copped it in the neck and Edgar hated the new one - called Satan – even more.

Then his wife Veda played by Elodie Boal who also adapted the piece, and Satan disappear. This is where the suspense should have come in, but instead, some very obvious clues as their whereabouts were dropped and the denouement lost its effect,

It was a tough task for the group and they worked hard but didn’t quite make it.

It continues until November 22. For all inquiries, call 0435 591 720 or 0418 157 552.

Hay Fever

By Noel Coward

Directed by Lindsay Posner

Playhouse Theatre

Queensland Performing Arts Centre

South Bank

Brisbane

 

ERIC SCOTT October 29, 2014

 

WHAT a deliciously funny two hours this show turned out to be. The brilliant cast turned this 90 year-old comedy into a night of timeless laughter as they created such beautiful in-period characters on a magnificent set that personified the English country house.

The play itself is so contemporary in humour it seems hardly possible that it debuted in London’s West End in 1925. This new revival, after a critically successful run in the UK it is touring Australia for seasons in Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.

Director Lindsay Posner, directs Noël Coward for the first time with this production and it reunites him with Felicity Kendal after their west end triumph in Alan Ayckbourn’s Relatively Speaking last year.

The plotline sees Judith Bliss, a once glittering star of the London stage and now in early retirement decides to spice up her weekend by inviting a love struck fan to join her in the country. However David, her egocentric novelist husband and her two wildly eccentric children Simon and Sorel have had the same idea for themselves and any hope for private flirtation disappears as the family’s guests begin to arrive.

 The outrageously rude and bizarre Bliss family were never caricatures and were so well created that they looked to be more normal than their unsuspecting guests. In fact they reminded me of a family I know quite well today!

The cast of British and Australian actors blended perfectly and were held together by a flawless performance from Felicity Kendal as an extremely delicious Judith Bliss. Her comic timing was absolutely perfect and her character so completely loveable.

Felicity shot to fame in TV’s The Good Life, and later in her starring role in Rosemary and Thyme. Recent theatre productions includes Alan Ayckbourn’s Relatively Speaking, Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days and Noël Coward’s Fallen Angels

As the play moves on the family behaviours becomes more and more bizarre as they invent love affairs, plan for elopements, engagements and marriage break-ups that send the guests into giddy bewilderment.

It simply an hilarious, nonstop romp of continuous laughter.

Matching Felicity Kendall barb for barb as David is Simon Shepherd who is a regular in London’s West End Theatre as well as many popular TV series – Poiroit and The Ruth Rendell Mysteries for two, and he also appeared in five seasons of the TV series Peak Practice.

The spoiled brat youngsters Simon and Sorel, played by British actors Edward Franklin and Alice Or-Ewing sparkled as they worked off each other and managed to stay likeable even in egotistical rages. I rate Alice Or-Ewing’s Sorel the best I have ever seen.

Against such a dynamic and overbearing family the poor unsuspecting innocents who arrive as guests needed to be strong actors to match the fearsome foursome but they didn’t blink an eyelid as held their own on stage.

Myra Arundel, Simon’s “older woman” guest, played by  Sara Stewart strutted her stuff nicely and did Sorel’s middle-aged guest diplomat Richard Greatham played by Michael Simkins.

Australians made up the rest of the cast, but accents were so well done there was never a slip. James Corrigan was Judith’s would be lover Sandy Tyrell and Celeste Dodwell was Jackie Coryton, the girl David Bliss invited as a study for one of his book characters .

I loved her characterisation of the insecure and slightly ditzy girl who was drowning in water much too deep for her.

Then of course there was the Maid, always a great comedy role in any Coward play and this time Aussie Lisa Armytage never let a laugh go by. All in all a night to be savoured long after it has ended.

Season dates and ticketing details:

Brisbane: October 23 – November 8, Playhouse theatre – qpac. Tickets: www.qpac.com.au or 136 246. Group bookings 8+: email groups@qpac.com.au or 07 3840 7466

Perth:  From November 13, Regal Theatre. Tickets: www.ticketek.com.au or 1300 795 012

Adelaide: From 3rd December. Her majesty’s theatre. Tickets: www.bass.net.au or 131 246

The 39 Step

Inspired by John Buchan and Alfred Hitchcock

Adapted by Patrick Barlow

From an original concept by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon

HIT Productions

Twelfth Night Theatre

Cintra Road

Bowen Hills

 

ERIC SCOTT October 22, 2014.

 

IT SEEMS that this show is as popular as ice cream. There are productions in theatres around the world and this is the second tour of the show to hit Brisbane. I missed the last one, but was curious as to why this whacky piece of theatre works so well, so made sure of seeing the return season at Twelfth Night Theatre.

And I was very pleased I did so.

 It is a hoot of show that’s chock full of laughs of every kind, subtle gags, old groaners, slapstick and sophistication all wrapped into one hilarious production that moves so fast it seemed to have just started when the interval arrived with the hero lying shot, presumably dead, on the floor.

It is a play that brings in all sorts of audience members. On opening night there was a huge contingent of teenagers who had as much fun as the adults who attended.

I have seen the 1935 Hitchcock movie that starred Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll many times, but for the life of me I could never remember what the 39 Steps actually were. Now I will always remember.

Impressions from the movie are still vivid, dark streets and gas lights, rushing steam engines; car rides on misty moors and lots of narrow escapes by the hero – the 37-year-old innocent Richard Hannay.

 All this came brilliantly alive created by four master actors on an almost empty stage. The use of simple props and some imagination worked wonders on the many, many scene changes, I particularly enjoyed the strangely realistic train ride and the escape by hanging onto the carriage exterior. It was brilliant work from the actors.

There were 70-odd characters in the story all created by the cast of four. Mike Smith was Richard Hannay — Anna Burgess, the German spy and Hannay’s love interest plus two other parts and Sam Haft and Michael Lindner who change character with baffling rapidity. They have been touring Australia for the past 12 months with this production and have it timed to perfection.

Despite the comedy send-up the script actually follows the movie plot closely.

Hero Richard Hannay meets a mysterious woman, who reveals a plot to smuggle British military secrets out of the country at a time when war is imminent. That night, she is murdered in his apartment.

This brings on one of the funniest sequence in the show. Hannay, very gentlemanly give his bed to Frau Schmitt while he sleeps in his armchair. His guest collapses dead across his legs and Hannay then spends several minute trying extricate himself from the situation with hilarious results

Then he is on the run with the cops and spies hot on his heels as he races into the unknown to solve the mystery of the man with the missing fingertip, the tune he can’t get out of his head and how vaudeville act Mr. Memory fits into the whole scheme of things.

I don’t know how they did it, but among all the sidesplitting comedy the cast managed to slip in some genuine suspense too.

Where Smith had to keep up the old stiff upper lip bravado, Haft and Lindner had their heads full of weird and wonderful people. The train ride was a classic example. With a change of hat and accent, within the scene, they became plum-toned businessmen, an inaudible paper seller, a porter, a pair of cops and a couple of spies as well as badly dressed Scots husband and wife – and bearded Michael Lindner brought the house down when he appeared in drag in the house of the mastermind with the missing fingertip.

I laughed so much I would probably have to see it again to get full value.

This adaptation premiered on the West End in 2006 and currently stands as the longest-running comedy playing on the West End and has been seen by more than 3 million people in more than 60 countries. The play opened on Broadway in 2008, winning two Tony Awards and two Drama Desk Awards. Australia’s Premier Theatre Touring Company, HIT Productions toured a new production in 2013 to regional and metropolitan venues around the country and is still on the road.

It continues at Twelfth Night until October 26. 07 3252 5122 or visit ticketmaster.com.au

The show will also be performed at the Gold Coast Arts Centre on November 1 and at the Empire Theatre Toowoomba on November 6.

Disney’s The Lion King

Lyric Theatre

Queensland Performing Arts Centre

South Bank

Brisbane

 

KELLIE SCOTT October 14, 2014

 

If the saying “a first impression is the last impression” was true, Disney’s The Lion King would win every audience member’s heart.

The grand opening of what has been labelled the “world’s biggest stage show” was as good as promised, with life-size African creatures including an elephant and rhino.

But unfortunately the buzz didn’t remain throughout the night. Instead there was a mix of wow moments and periods of questioning “is this it?”

The most mind-blowing part of the evening was the set. And I’m proud to say QPAC’s Lyric Theatre lived up to what was needed to pull it off with ease. Seeing it change was like watching a magic show. Before your eyes it would lift 20 degrees, a cliff edge would appear and a watering hole would disappear. A starry night could quickly turn into the face of Mufasa.

The tunes from the Disney movie were all there, with a few others too. It was enjoyable to relive the movie which has seen great success since its launch in 1994.

The likes of Rafiki played by Buyi Zama proved there were strong and powerful voices in the cast, but not all singers lived up to the expectation.

And it’s reported Zama doesn’t speak English, but you wouldn’t have guessed. She has played the role in other venues including Broadway and Shanghai.

The costumes and make-up were impressive, particularly that of Mufasa and Scar who with the bend of their neck could don the masked faces of their characters.

The giraffes stole the show, actors on four stilts creating the enormously tall beasts, gliding across the stage.

The live orchestra is the backbone of the production which is improved further by two bongo and drums players either side of the stage. They are in full view and a powerful addition to the sights and sounds.

Mufasa’s loyal servant Zazu, played by Cameron Goodall, is an absolute delight as he flaps – literally – around stage in a tizzy. Goodall with a Zazu puppet on his arm does a great job blending himself physically with the prop.

Josh Quong Tart as Scar was faultless and I enjoyed adult Simba, played by Nick Afoa.

Of course there would be no Simba without his loyal friends, Timon (Jamie McGregor) and Pumbaa (Russell Dykstra).

And I can’t forget to mention the hyena trio; a real enjoyable treat of laughs and wickedness.

I couldn’t help but compare the show to War Horse, which seems to have better technology for the animal puppetry than The Lion King. Mind you, War Horse is a newer show.

I’m sure most won’t be disappointed with Disney’s The Lion King. But I was, just a little.

Wuthering Heights

By Emily Bronte

Cremorne Theatre,

Queensland Performing Arts Centre

South Bank

Brisbane

 

KELLIE SCOTT October 13, 2014

 

I don’t want to spoil the shock that would see a sparrow drop dead – but if you’re on heart medication, maybe give the first five minutes of Wuthering Heights: Act One a miss.

Frights aside, this adaptation by Shake & Stir was my ideal introduction to the classic Bronte sister story.

It’s a young cast except for the key role of Nelly Dean, played by Gerry Connolly.

The character features little in the book, but in this version she is the central narrator with a hefty amount of lines and time on stage. It’s no wonder Connolly struggled with his lines on several occasions. Despite that he gave a momentous performance delivering sharp wit which lightened the insanity of the tale.

Catherine Earnshaw couldn’t have been better cast than with actress Melanie Zanetti. She is one of my favourite local actors and delivered dramatic, manipulated and spoilt brat behaviour to a tee. She was well matched by Ross Balbuziente as Healthcliff, the brooding handsome man with a wicked side.

Both were well supported by Julian Curtis as Edgar Linton, Nelle Lee predominantly as Isabella Linton and Anthony Standish predominantly as Hindley Earnshaw. Most actors took on multiple roles to play children in later years. Lee was a convincing boy - Linton Healthcliff.

Unfortunately the audience didn’t have much of a chance to learn as deeply about the characters as they would have in the book – as my date, who is fan of the novel explained. But I think for a stage show that covers years in less than a total of 2.5 hours, we got the taste needed.

The set was the star of the show with powerful digital images being screened back of stage. It heightened the emotions and thoughts of characters. The accompanying music delivered the chills to set the scene of intensity.

Costumes design by Leigh Buchanan was handled beautifully. A particularly good choice was the navy and black lace-adorned dress worn by Catherine.

Fight scenes were convincing thanks to Justin Palazzo-Orr.

Shake & Stir definitely shook up this classic story which I’m sure anybody under the age of 35 would enjoy. For those more attached to the novel, I’m not sure the lacking character depth would impress.

Bookworms

By Bernard Farrell

Directed by Brian Hinselwood

Centenary Theatre Group

Corner of Queenscroft and Halsbury Streets

Chelmer

Brisbane

 

IT WAS quite a coup for Centenary to snare the Australian premiere of this play. The script is so good it’s a wonder it has not already been picked up by a professional company, but Centenary proved that that had earned the right and did a fine job with high standards of acting and presentation.

It’s one of those rare shows that had me in a fit of constant chuckles from curtain up to final bows. The characters were sharply drawn and the comedy brilliantly written and interpreted. Good comic timing from the cast helped a lot.

The standard of community theatre these days, from what I’ve seen this year, is very high, which accounts for the full houses at so many shows.

In his notes director Brian Hinselwood wrote that he and the cast discussed whether the Irish accent was essential to the production and decided that it was. They were so right because the play, characters, humour, and language are so Irish, it would not have worked so well with a change of location.

And the accents, a sort of mid-Irish, were well maintained, never jarred and were always understandable. The costuming was good as was the set and the lighting and sound. Here extras kudos goes to Tristan Holland for the very authentic looking Skype chat between Ann and Larry’s daughter Aisling (played on screen by Eloise O’Brien) who is living in Australia.

The play is set in Dublin in the years after the “Celtic Tiger” property boom when the Irish Republic wises riding a wave of success, only to see it crumble through bank lending excesses and lots of business crashes.

Ann and Larry are the hosts of the monthly book club meeting. It is an experimental meeting too, men are allowed for the first time, which is obviously going to cause some hassle. Larry for one is not keen on the idea. He declares he is not book person and has no idea who Virginia Wolfe is; although he has Wikipedia’d To Kill a Mockingbird, the other book.

After a few cancellations the guest list dwindles to Jennifer and Robert, who is a sharp dealer for a bank and is about to pull Larry into legal arguments about a loan default, and Dorothy a window who seems to have a propensity to lose lots of her friends and relatives to the grim reaper.

There is also the mysterious Vincent, the jailbird brother of Larry, who is kept well out of sight – then there is a running gag about a dead budgie – shades of Monty Python there.

As the wine and whiskey go down various  throats, the book discussions gets heated, tongues are loosened and suddenly here are lots of misunderstandings, false accusations and some downright jealousy.

It all starts when, on Skype, Aisling sort of hints that Robert is a bit of a sleaze – not with her of course but “a friend”. Ann has written down some raunchy thoughts about Robert in a disappeared diary and cannot remember what she told Dorothy a while back after a night of too much wine.

In the middle of this poor Larry gets all sorts of mixed signals and the riotous fun gets wilder and wilder.

The entire cast, with a couple with professional experience, really understood their characters and interpreted them perfectly.

Brad Ashwood played Larry well with his lovely mood swings and fears, while Joanne Smith was a perfect foil with her calm but slightly ditsy ways. Andrew Clulow was Robert. This is the third time I have seen him in a Centenary production and each time has given a smooth and believable performance.

Meg Hinselwood is another Centenary regular who is always good value and as the brittle Jennifer impressed again. Once more the director’s pairing of actors was spot on, as she disintegrates under th barrage of wild accusations against her husband.

Dale Murison has been acting around the Brisbane traps for more than 40 years now and I don’t think I’ve ever seen her give a dud performance. She portrayed the deadly Dorothy perfectly.

Finally we did get to meet the well-hidden Vincent, who adds a new dimension to the budgie gag, and once more there was a believable performance from Nick Cockcroft. All in all it was a very happy two theatrical hours well spent.

It continues until September 29. Bookings can be made on-line at www.centenarytheatre.com.au All inquiries to 0435 591 720.

 SCOTT August 15, 2014