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Sydney review- Killing Katie: Confessions of a Book Club: succinct storytelling at its best

By Paul Kiely



Killing Katie: Confessions of a Book Club

By Tracey Trinder

Directed by Francesca Savige

An Ensemble Theatre Production

Ensemble Theatre

78 McDougall Street

Kirribilli


Season: 9 Jan – 26 Feb 2022. Bookings: https://ensemble.com.au

Duration: 90 minutes (No interval)


The term ‘secret women’s business’ takes on a whole new meaning when you delve into the world of book clubs. In Tracey Trinder’s new play ‘Killing Katie: Confessions of a Book Club’ the mysterious machinations that go on in these small, mainly female, suburban groups are revealed for all to see.

This is the story about how four intelligent, passive women, who have been meeting regularly for years to discuss and dissect great novels like Jane Eyre, make the enlightened decision to allow a new additional member into their club.

Unfortunately for this book club, there is no vetting process to assess new member applications. What could go wrong?

Meetings are held in the home of Robyn (Kate Raison). She is the facilitator of the group. Outwardly courteous, Robyn is staid, straight and insular in her world view. Her cynicism is only matched by her hypocrisy.

Angela (Valerie Bader) is Robyn’s mother and they share the same home with the classic ‘three ducks in flight’ adorning the loungeroom wall. She attends the meetings for a bit of fun. Often deriding Robyn for her views and constantly saying “Don’t be ridiculous.”

Linda (Bron Lim) is the ‘nice’ one in the group. Always polite, a sincere listener and collector of great quotes. Her friend Sam (Georgina Symes) always attends in gym gear, is often late and invariably, does not finish reading the allotted text. Luckily, Linda gives her a verbal summary of the book beforehand. Sam always interrupts the meetings by taking mobile calls from her distressed daughter.

The meetings follow the same rules and rituals led by Robyn: book discussion followed by sharing of food and wine. Never the other way round…

That is until the arrival of Sam’s friend Katie (Chantelle Jamieson) into the group.

Katie is both a breath of fresh air and a cyclone. Trained in speech pathology, she is brash, vivacious, confident and has a photographic memory.

Katie stamps her presence in the meetings like a rancher brands his cattle.

Wine is opened on arrival, food attacked immediately and gushing’s of her social life are unrelenting.

Furthermore, she wants the books of her favourite author to be discussed, Candace Bushnell of ‘Sex and the City’ fame. To say that Robyn is aghast is a gross understatement. To go from the sacred world of gothic fiction to ‘chicklit’ borders on blasphemy!

Each meeting gets more divisive as the pendulum starts to swing in favour of Katie’s approach to life. It leads ultimately to a conclusion that you would not expect.

Tracey Trinder has nailed it in terms of audience entertainment value. Her script is witty, biting and lively. We all know the characters from somewhere in our own lives and squirm when we identify with some of their traits. ‘Killing Katie’ is succinct storytelling at its best.

The direction by Francesca Savige was very clever. Staging, lighting and sound showed wonderful creativity. Props moved by pulleys and strings aided the humour. Set changes interspersed with girl-empowerment songs helped reinforce the play’s theme of friendship.

The cast were faultless. Chantelle Jamieson as Katie played the role perfectly, being likable and obnoxious in equal amounts. Her laughter was more infectious than Covid-19. Kate Raison was equally impressive and had the opportunity for her character to evolve into a counter-personality. Valerie Baker, Bron Lim and Georgina Symes gave memorable performances as well.

I must give ‘Killing Katie: Confessions of a Book Club’ at the Ensemble Theatre my highest recommendation. Locally written, it has the self-deprecating style of humour Australians love. It is captivating, fun, relatable, funny and sad all in one. Great writing and production!