Wednesday, March 20, 2013

It’s My Party (And I’ll Die If I Want To) by Elizabeth Coleman

It’s My Party (And I’ll Die If I Want To) by Elizabeth Coleman.  Produced by Christine Harris & HIT Productions.  Directed by Denis Moore, designed by Shaun Gurton, sound by Chris Hubbard, costumes by Adrienne Chisholm.  At The Q, Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre, March 19-27, 2013.

Reviewed by Frank McKone

Superficially an entertaining farce involving revelation, death and resurrection, It’s My Party... has a little something extra.  Elizabeth Coleman, in this – her first full length play – skilfully, smoothly, shifted the mood from laughter (on our part) at the characters’ family wrangling to moments of silent recognition of the truth of each adult child’s accusations against their father, and back to laughter in no time at all.

Quality writing gave all the actors every chance of establishing strong characters and clear relationships, and every one of the family members – Henri Szeps (father, Ron Patterson), Robyn Arthur (mother, Dawn Patterson), Trent Baker (son, Michael), Sharon Davis (elder daughter, Debbie) and Freya Pragt (younger daughter, Karen) – took full advantage of the offer.  Though Szeps is so well-known that he was applauded just for appearing on stage, there was no prima donna in this ensemble performance.

In the end (literally) the role of the undertaker, Ted Wilkins, emphasises the farcical nature of the situation but introduces a character from outside the web of the family’s relationships.  The writing is not so strong here, and I thought Matt Furlani could have made this character rather more absurdist in style to make the point.

One of the delights of this production was the set designed by Shaun Gurton.  Though the drama takes place in an internal room, above the “walls” are trompe-l'oeil pictures of the tiled roofs of the suburban house – at least I assume they were painted flats rather than the complete 3-dimensional structures they looked like.  This cleverly established for us, with the furniture in the room, the small business lower middle class status of Ron Patterson, stationery shop proprietor. 

Though first produced at La Mama in Melbourne 20 years ago, with a little updating of some references, It’s My Party... still works well as a study of the changing generations.  Even if our adult children don’t use Blackberries much any more, the question Ron wants to have answered by them – was I a good father? – is still relevant, and their answers are just as funny, or devastating, as ever.
Henri Szeps as Ron Patterson

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