Friday, April 1, 2016

PLAYHOUSE CREATURES



Written by April De Angelis
Directed by Jordan Best
Pigeonhole Theatre Company
Q Theatre, Queanbeyan to 9 April

Review by Len Power 31 March 2016

This play, ‘Playhouse Creatures’ is set in 1669 in England after Charles II decreed that men were no longer to play the roles of women on stage.  On the surface that seems to be a great time for women so long denied the chance to act.  The reality is that women found it to be a precarious occupation only one step away from prostitution and poverty.  Focussing on five of the most famous actresses of the time, including Nell Gwynn and Mary Betterton, the play doesn’t flinch from showing what it was probably like behind the scenes.

Jordan Best, the director, has done some of her best work here with a strong production that works on all levels.  Played on a split level set well-designed by Christine Nowak and lit by Kelly McGannon, the atmosphere of a Restoration era theatre is nicely captured.  The music score by Matthew Webster is hauntingly beautiful.

There are great performances from the entire cast.  Amy Dunham as Nell Gwynn is superb as the rough young girl who wants to be an actress.  Her transformation to a beauty desired by a King is expertly done.  Karen Vickery gives a highly detailed and very real performance as the reigning queen of the theatre, Mary Betterton.  Jenna Roberts plays her role with a delicacy and fragility that is heart-breaking and Emma Wood gives a grand performance both humorous and sad.  Liz Bradley is nicely tough and funny as Doll Common and expertly delivers some of the best lines in the show.

The period costumes by Anne Kay run the gamut from rags to riches and all are nicely designed and suit the actresses very well.  Penny Vaile has done an excellent job, too, with the period hairstyles.

There are two major reasons to see this play.  It tells a fascinating story about an important time in theatre history and it’s an opportunity to see some of Canberra’s top actresses giving extraordinary performances.

Len Power’s reviews can also be heard on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Artcetera’ program on Saturdays from 9am.

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