Right: Kate Wilson and Christine Amor. Below Right:
Trevor Stuart and Andrew McFarlane. Photos by Rob Maccoll.
Deanne Scott's after-party photos follow the review
By Ronald Harwood
Directed by Andrea Moor
Queensland Theatre Company
Queensland Performing Arts Centre
Season: January 30-February 21. Bookings: www.queenslandtheatre.com.au or 136 246.
What a delightful, funny, insightful and beautifully acted piece this turned out to be. It was simply a complete entertainment package; comedy, drama, reality, a little unreality and a great deal of joy.
The comfortable, regulated life of a trio of retired opera singers who live in a retirement home for showbiz veterans is shattered when a new diva, who turns out to be the reviled ex-wife of one of the inmates, enters the building.
Will they get over old feuds and sing the quartet from, Rigoletto together at the annual concert or will they fight bitterly?
It doesn’t really matter because the show is all in the beautifully drawn characters.
There’s scholarly tenor Reginald Paget, played by Andrew McFarlane; Wilfred Bond, played by Trevor Stuart, the rude crude but very cheery baritone; Cecily Robson, played by Christine Amor, the horny soprano who fancies the gardener, and the “star” newcomer, the diva Jean Horton, played by Kate Wilson.
Andrea Moor’s casting was simply perfect.
As the play opened on a curtain set of a pair of park benches in the garden of the retirement home the trio of singers were good friends.
Andrew MacFarlane’s Reginald was a gentle soul. He was still very slowly writing his memoirs and was smilingly tolerant of the vulgar Wilfred, but he slid quickly into his shell whenever asked how long he had been married to the diva Jean and was quick to anger when pushed for answer. He simply did not want to talk about it. The hurt was too great and, where his ex-wife had several ex-husbands Reginald never married again.
Wilfred, the most physically crotchety of the three, took delight in talking dirty to the unsuspecting Cecily who, wearing headphones, listened intently to her own voice in a CD recording of Rigoletto. Unlike Reginald his marriage had lasted 35 years.
Cecily’s little-girl vagueness and pretend innocence was a delight too as the truly insecure artist whose one wish was to please everyone. They were content in their own way and each still had happy memories, regrets and, most importantly, dreams.
Reginald had welcomed old age as time when forgetting past hurt was easy, Wilfred railed comically against it, cursing his body for not responding to his needs, and Cecily didn’t believe she was old anyway.
The audience laughed or groaned in recognition at the “old people” jokes, mainly about bodily functions and deteriorating physical condition,
They chatted, teased and supported each other in enjoyable camaraderie and kept the audience amused, intrigued, and sympathetic. We loved them all, and were quite concerned when Jean entered the scene and poor Reginald went right off his head with anger and – was it fear we smelled? If so why?
Jean was regal, walking with a cane as she awaited a replacement hip. Where the other three had volunteered themselves into the home Jean had been forced there by reduced circumstances and strongly resented the fact.
Oddly the symmetry of the trio hardly changed with her arrival, apart from Reginald who refused point-blank to speak to her despite her apology for hurting him. Despite their human frailties the singers still wanted to entertain and even Reginald’s revulsion of Jean was swiftly hidden when he realised that they might be able to sing the quartet together for one last time.
The show ended with rapturous cheers and applause that are usually reserved for million-dollar musicals. We just loved the people, the story, and the incredible character creation from the cast.
Luckily for the people of regional Queensland this play will tour to Toowoomba, Kawana, Rockhampton, Mackay, Cairns, Townsville, Gladstone, Ipswich, and Bundall from February 25-March 23. Whether out there or in Brisbane, go and see it.
The cast relax after the show.
Aspiring actor Liv Wilsons with Mum, Sonia. Right: Trevor Stuart with Eric Scott
Michelle Wiki, Leigh Buchanan, Barb Kerr and Michael Verdi