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Brisbane review - Gwen in Purgatory: Raises Pertinent Topic

By Lilian Harrington


Gwen in Purgatory

By Tommy Murphy

Directed by Lucy Loxon

Villanova Players

The Ron Hurley Theatre

28 Tallowood St. Seven Hills

Season: 6-8 October

Bookings: Trybooking.com


It’s great to see our local theatre company’s offering opportunities for newcomers to theatre! Villanova Players (V.P.) annual program includes an initiative for their V.P. members through their intermezzo short season program, a chance to explore their talents and skills working on a production in a director’s role or as a lead actor.

Gwen in Purgatory, provided Lucy Loxon (a behind scenes creative), a chance to debut in a director’s role, along with Lorraine Fox (who takes a first time lead role as Gwen), and newcomer Leanne Look, (who plays Peg), in her first stage role.

Gwen in Purgatory, was written by the talented and award winning, young Australian writer , Tommy Murphy, who is known for his TV Screen writing and stage credits such as Devil’s Playground ; more recently, the 2023 adaptation of Neville Shute’s novel On the Beach, and an episode writer in the award winning Twelve, TV series (2023), along with his international and local success award winning “Holding the Manwhich Murphy adapted for film from the memoir of Tim Conigrave; this current production of Gwen in Purgatory proves to have been a good choice for V.P.

With more of Australian’s population ageing, we are all likely to know someone like Gwen, or someone in her age group with the problems that ageing brings. Gwen is aged 90, and she’s just sold her house and moved to a downsized new residence on the outskirts of town where she has to learn to readjust and use new technology.

Although showing signs of Alzheimer’s, and some physical handicaps, she’s still got her faculties and her old Holden car, but, when she awakes from her sleep she finds herself having trouble working out which hand- held switch will turn on or off the fan or the air conditioner, or connect the TV, or phone, or the heater; she looks forward to her family coming over to help her sort things out because it’s very confronting.

While moving into her new place she’s collided with a parked vehicle and dented it, so her grandson Daniel (played by Shane Fell), arrives after her call for help. He really wants possession of Gwen’s old Holden as the family don’t think she should drive anymore. She wants her car. Her household belongings still remain in boxes. She’s got no idea where important items like her kettle are kept.

Her daughter Peg, a busy nurse, (played by Leanne Look), eventually arrives to help sort things out for her but, she really doesn’t want to become her mother’s carer. Gwen’s been looking forward to Father Ezekiel (played by Ganiyu Amusan), coming to bless the new house ,so she can get properly resettled; when he does come he’s met with a difficult family situation; His story is a parallel to Gwen’s in many ways, and part of the inspiration for Tommy Murphy’s writing.

The set and props, plus the technical effects were minimalistic under the guidance of Stage Manager, Petra Donnison and director Lucy Loxon; the cast worked well as a team, but much of the action, and movement were on the same level so this dragged some important sequences which should have had more energy and drive or stage movement. Important momentum was lost when at times the characters were lined up on the set, and they didn’t appear focused on the central action.

However, the show had fluency and there was good vocalisation and a clear delivery. The costumes, with assistance from Lia Surrentino, were appropriate and helped portray each character; Characterisations from Gwen (Lorraine Fox) and Laurie (John Evans), were entertaining and showed both movement and intention in the scene. Gwen in Purgatory runs for a short season and deals with ageing, a pertinent topic facing many families.





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