Sunday, June 23, 2013

THE RELUCTANT SHOPPER



Written and Directed by Bruce Hoogendoorn
 The Courtyard, Canberra Theatre Centre
June 19 -29, 2013

Review by Len Power 19 June 2013



Now here's a clever idea for a play that pleases from start to finish.  Bruce Hoogendoorn's snappy new comedy proposes that the economy would be in better shape if rich tax avoiders were identified and quietly blackmailed into going out and shopping, even if they don't want to.  Like in 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice', it all works far too well and soon they have a nightmare on their hands.

The director has assembled an ideal cast for this show.  Brendan Kelly gets right under the skin of a self-centred, dishonest young man who, at the start of the play, deserves to be blackmailed.  With his skilful playing, he reverses the audience’s attitude towards him as the play progresses.  The beautiful Kimberley Balaga plays a deliciously funny girlfriend who may, or may not, be sincere.  Rob de Fries, an expert comedy player is a master at showing you what he’s really thinking while saying something completely different.  His sense of timing and physical comedy provides many of the big laughs in this production.

The character of the shop assistant, played by Elaine Noon, was not as well-realized as the other characters in the show.  No matter how sorely tested, surely a shop assistant would not be so openly angry and aggressive at a customer?  Still, with arms flapping, Elaine Noon is very funny.

The author, Bruce Hoogendoorn, has also directed for the first time.  His staging is straight forward and generally well-paced.  A more experienced director would have ensured the scene changes were smoother and cleaned up little jarring details.  For example, a character going to a door in a dressing gown, having supposedly just got out of bed after a night of passion, would not still be wearing trousers and shoes from the previous scene.

Wayne Shepherd’s clever set design provides an appropriate eyeful of in-your-face advertising.  He also wrote the appealing incidental music for the show.  Kelly McGannon’s lighting design complemented the set and the action very well and Miriam Miley-Read chose the right costumes from sub-KMart to drop-dead gorgeous for the characters.

Bruce Hoogendoorn, a local writer now having success beyond Canberra, shows with ‘The Reluctant Shopper’ that he can write clever comedy as well as good drama.  Wayne Swan, our embattled Treasurer, could learn something from this show!

Broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Dress Circle’ program on Sunday 23 June 2013.
A shorter version was first published in ‘Canberra City News’ digital edition on Thursday 20 June 2013.


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