By ERIC SCOTT
PHOTOS: Rachael Beck and Noeline Brown as Anita and Maggie Beare:
After party guests Alan Lawrence, Carol Burns and Nelle Lee.
Mother & Son
By Geoffrey Atherton
Directed by Roger Hodgman
Presented by Queensland Theatre Company
Produced by Joint Ventures/Lascorp Entertainment/Fractured Limbs
Queensland Performing Arts Centre
Season: February 18-March 15
Running time two hours 10 minutes including interval
This is a nostalgic trip down TV Memory Lane and the packed Playhouse audience loved it. They applauded scene ends and laughed a lot. They also appreciated a fine cast of actors who played the Beare family with Noeline Brown who recreated Ruth
Cracknell’s Maggie Beare, Darren Gilshenan cloned Gary McDonald’s Arthur Beare the put-upon son, and Rob Carlton and Nicki Wendt were number one son randy dentist Robert and yuppie wife Liz.
It didn’t take long for the mind to replace the originals with the new guys and slide comfortably into the world of Maggie who is suffering the early signs of dementia and the troubles she caused with her forgetfulness.
We alternated between frustration and pity for poor Arthur; enjoy a unique love-hate relationship with the selfish but practical Liz, and laugh at the brazen womanising antics of Robert. And we truly understood why he doesn’t think he has done anything worth retribution.
There is a very mixed reaction from men and women in the audience on this point!
All the traits of the TV characters are carried nicely through from the pen of their creator Geoffrey Atherton, who brought them together as a full-length stage play.
The plot is flimsy and has a heavy reliance on telephones both mobile and landline for plot advancement and laughs. Basically is about Arthur’s emancipation, which he is trying to achieve with the help of this delightfully hearty girlfriend Anita, played with bouncy energy by Rachael Beck.
Anita has a disabled brother she happily looks after. It is a match made in heaven.
Robert is in deep trouble over an affair with his hygienist Sharon (conducted only in his dentist’s chair): “It’s not an affair,” he protests, “it’s just sex.”
Some sexting on his secret mobile surfaces and all hell breaks loose, and this provides some vintage angry wife lines from Nicki Wendt’s very convincing Liz. I really enjoyed Nicki’s performance as she battled it out with Robert; her delivery was incisive and beautifully barbed.
Rob Carlton too was a delight to watch as he turned what could be a nasty character into a likeable rogue who twisted and turned even more than a Canberra pollie. There were a few pollie jokes in the show too that brought some big laughs.
Noeline Brown’s Maggie was a vintage performance with her meandering mind and her pointed well-remembered bits of her past and present and Darren Gilshenan’s Arthur seemed to have developed a bit more backbone since the TV series ended. Good for him, we thought.
But with the odds stacked against him, we wondered if he ever would get on his holiday, let alone get married.
There are two more characters in the play, Karen, the social worker, played by Sharon Davis, who is checking to see if Maggie would qualify for respite care every now and then. She plays a delightful scene where Maggie thinks she is having some sort of exam and has to give the correct answer.
The other is Monica, queen of the respite centre, played so well by Robyn Arthur, in another funny scene when Maggie goes along to check out the place.
Some very funny scenes were played out on a video screen as Skype chats between Maggie, her son and daughter-in-law, and her grandchildren.
It was an unchallenging night of light entertainment, but for me there were a few flaws. The play felt like the 1980s, the costumes looked like the 1980s, but the set and the heavy reliance mobile phones made it a contemporary play and that for me sent mixed messages. I reckon it should have been a pure period piece.
I also didn’t go for the opening scene where Maggie was climbing a ladder to change a light bulb in what would have been at least a fifteen foot ceiling. After the scene the light disappeared never to be seen again. It seemed a lot of trouble for a small joke.
I found it fun, but not huge fun.
Tickets are available at queenslandtheatre.com.au or by calling 136 246.