Directed by Liz Bradley
Canberra REP, Theatre 3
22 November to 7 December
Review by Len Power
Ken Ludwig, the American author of ‘The Fox On The Fairway’, Canberra Rep’s latest production, has stated that his play is a farce and was ‘written in homage to the great English farce tradition’. If so, he needs to learn from a few more of the great ones, as ‘The Fox On The Fairway’ seems more like an ordinary American TV comedy sitcom than a classic farce.
Originally set in a golf and country club in the USA, Rep’s production is set in Melbourne, Australia. The manager of the club, on the eve of a big golf tournament and confident that he has the best player in competition, unwisely makes a large bet on the outcome of the game with a hated rival manager of another club, not knowing that his prize player has switched clubs and is now playing for his rival.
In farce the focus is on the plot rather than the characters, with actors broadly playing wildly improbable situations escalating to a hilarious climax. This play spends far too much time with characters standing around trading insults and not advancing the story quickly enough. As a result it never develops any momentum and seems laboured. While mildly amusing, the plot itself is not particularly complex and runs out of steam in the second act leading to a dull climax.
The cast try to play this as farce but there’s too much hysteria with forced acting and mugging. Curiously, both Jim Adamik and Andrew Price as the rival club managers played their roles as if they imagined they were ten or so years older than they actually were. The two youngest members of the cast, Martin Hoggart and Natalie Waldron, didn’t enunciate clearly enough and Bridget Black as the angry wife was stuck with a one-note character that quickly became tiresome. Rachael Clapham had the best lines as the promiscuous Pamela and delivered them well.
The set by Andrew Kay is nicely designed but the furnishings were sparse on the huge playing area. The sofa and chairs also looked a bit cheap for an upmarket golf club. The scene changes seemed to have been made to look like disgruntled staff of the golf club were doing them. It was an imaginative idea, but wasn’t executed smoothly enough. The costumes by Fiona Leach were nicely done, especially the deliberately awful golf attire.
Director, Liz Bradley, staged the show well enough and kept the pace moving, but she was hamstrung by its construction and writing. The play was premiered at a regional theatre in the USA in 2010 but, unlike Ken Ludwig’s earlier plays, ‘Lend Me A Tenor’ and ‘Moon Over Buffalo’, never went on to Broadway. That should have been a warning that it wasn’t up to his usual standard. This play might be striving for a hole in one, but disappointingly only hits a bogey.
Originally broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Dress Circle’ program on Sunday 24 November 2013.