By April De Angelis
Directed by Jordan Best
Pigeon Hole Theatre
QUT Gardens Theatre
Season was on 28-29 August, 2018
Pigeon Hole Theatres’ latest production, Playhouse Creatures, presents a diverse and socially relevant glimpse into the lives of the first-ever women on stage.
The show is funny, feminist and really uncovers the roles women have played in the theatre. The script, written by April De Angelis, peeks behind the scenes - exploring the beginnings of such opportunities for women, the world of drama and comedy, and the backstage friendships and rivalries that come with it all.
As the story began, the King had reopened theatres, providing jobs for women in roles of a lifetime. To earn more money and enjoy a better standard of living, such women flocked to have their moment in the spotlight.
Playhouse Creatures faces us with a harsh reality, in which, nothing much has changed in our current culture. Although, the play is set in the 1600s, in today’s society women still earn less and are cast in roles based on their looks. It’s a strong reminder that such a show is quite apt in our current climate.
Entering the Gardens Theatre, the audience were greeted by a creatively pleasing set, made up of strong, rustic frames. Like a box, the players performed on a top platform, which represented the playhouse stage; and underneath, which represented the backstage dressing room. It’s a very clever and innovative design by Christiane Nowak.
In fact, the atmosphere as a whole was ambient and evoking. Director, Jordan Best, utilised the space well and the production was heavily complimented by the wooden pallet construction, flickering candles and Jordan’s own Cello playing. All components intertwined in a delicious, inviting and warm soiree.
The all-female cast were collectively energetic and charismatic to their audience. They delivered – in comedy, commitment, and conviction.
Stand-out performances of the troupe came from Zoe Priest as an uncouth and rowdy, Nell Gwynn, and Yanina Clifton as a posh and conniving, Mrs Farley. Both women portrayed stereotypical contrasts of each other, and connected with the audience throughout their performances.
Another stellar character was portrayed by Karen Vickery as Mrs Betterton – the playhouses leading lady. Karen was honest, heart-warming and hilarious, as we watched Betterton’s career be taken over by her younger counterparts.
As a whole, Playhouse Creatures created a space where all were welcomed. At times, the audience may have struggled to keep up with the cockney-accents and comedic timing, but the overall creation was delightful. The dialogue was quick-witted, coarse, and intimate.
Pigeon Hole Theatre has rightly tipped their hat to the brave women who came before us. Such stories need to be remembered to enhance our own theatrical experiences. They are also extremely relevant as they remind us that we still have a long way to go bridging the gap.