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Review – revitalised Odd Couple

October 23, 2015

 

Above: The cast and director

Right: Tama Matheson and Jason Klarwein as Felix and Oscar.

 

Deanne Scott’s after party photos follow the review.

 

The Odd Couple

By Neil Simon

Directed by Wesley Enoch

Queensland Theatre Company

Playhouse Theatre

Queensland Performing Arts Centre

South Bank Brisbane

 

Season: October 17-November 8. Running time: two hours and five minutes, including a 20 minute interval. Bookings: 1800 355 528 or www.queenslandtheatre.com.au

 

How do you turn a piece of 1960s kitsch into a comedy that keeps a 21st century audience laughing out loud? Hand it over to Wesley Enoch is the answer.

The Odd Couple, which premiered on Broadway in 1965, was Wesley’s final piece of direction for QTC and after a fast and funny opening scene continued to guffaws of laughter from an appreciative audience. The Neil Simon comedy style has gone out of fashion even in amateur theatre companies, but Enoch I think might have started a comeback trend. This is a very funny play that brought back memories of many other nights of laughter the writer has delivered over the years.

Wesley left for Sydney the morning after the play premiered in the Playhouse Theatre. And he left the after party on a tidal wave of good wishes.

The play is about a pair of mismatched housemates, thrown together in the aftermath of marriage breakdowns. Oscar, the sports writer is an untidy slob while Felix is an obsessive-compulsive neat-clean man who is a member of Oscar’s weekly poker game.

Oscar is keen for female companionship while Felix, newly cast off, feels guilt at the thought.

The production was cleverly updated without affecting the feel of the play. As the action began Christina Smith’s set was perfect, a well-appointed eight room apartment was nicely hidden behind Oscar’s mess as the weekly poker game was in progress. The costuming was ageless and effective.

And what a great opening scene it turned out to be. The four players looked great and the acting was tight as a drum. The scene flowed sweetly as the chat between the players was fast and funny. There was Roy, Oscar’s accountant and Murray the Cop plus the timid Vinnie and the excitable Speed. The roles were so well played by Tim Dashwood, Colin Smith, Brian Probets and Steven Rooke.

Laughs flowed easily as the typically sharp Simon dialogue was perfectly delivered.

Jason Klarwein was Oscar and he had the Bronx accent down pat as he sparred with his card-playing friends. Everything was as usual except that Felix was missing and, according to the wife who dumped him, was feeling suicidal.

But the unlucky, allergy and accident prone, Felix, played by Tama Matheson, turns up in a zombie-like state with no luggage and nowhere to stay except a lonely hotel room. Oscar takes pity and lets him stay and so starts the relationship from hell.

It was a quick and efficient scene change when Felix took over housekeeping duties; full credit goes to Stage Manager Eloise Grace.

Matheson and Klarwein were a great team; they bounced off each other and slowly drove each other mad with hilarious consequences. They created a great and very odd couple that had the audience on side and laughing from the moment they met right through to the end.

It was splendid casting all round – and that includes the two females who played English sisters divorcee Cecily Pigeon and widow Gwendoline. Amy Ingram and Lauren Jackson were the couple of Sloan Rangers who giggled and simpered their way through the second act at the disastrous dinner planned by Oscar and Felix.

That was a scene to remember! But then so were many others as the characters clashed and delivered those wickedly funny lines, neatly drawn out by Enoch. It was a fairytale ending to the career of a popular and talented Artistic Director.

 

Below left: Brysan Probets and Hugh Marshall. Below right: Wesley Enoch gives his final chat to the party guests

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Partygoers in the Convention Centre Skyroom.

 

 Lauren Jackson, Eric Scott, Amy Ingram

 

Left: Leigh Buchannan and Wesley Enoch

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