Friday, June 25, 2010

Caravan by Donald MacDonald

Caravan by Donald MacDonald. Directed by Rodney Delaney at The Q, Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre, June 24 – July 3, 2010.

Reviewed by Frank McKone, June 24.

Caravan is more or less in the tradition of romantic comedy – we know this because the final scene ends in a tableau of all the characters laughing outrageously while drunk – except that the setting is not exactly conducive to romance and the dalliances have already happened years before this summer holiday in the rain.

The play is a situation comedy, with pretensions to be a traditional farce, but for me has serious weaknesses, despite its history of productions since 1983, when I first saw it at the Opera House Drama Theatre, no less. I wondered then whether it deserved that venue, but with strong professional actors of that era like Kirrily Nolan it succeeded as pure entertainment.

Delaney’s production has recognised that pure fun is the objective. On first night things began a little too slowly, as if we were expected to take the relationship between Penny and Parkes Robinson seriously as the owners of the caravan waiting for their invitees to join them. But the very effective acting of everyone bashing their heads on the low door (except for Pierce’s cradle-snatched girlfriend, of course, until she was as drunk as the rest) began to get us in the mood for the farcical situation. By the second half things were well underway as we wore our plastic coats while the rain could be heard belting down.

The acting was well done all round. Highlights for me were Bernadette Vincent’s scene reporting her “rape” in the shower. Not only was her entrance at full intensity, but she maintained the energy throughout the scene, and built on Monica’s character throughout her performance. Jenny Rixon impressed as well, particularly in turning Penny’s character around as she became seriously drunk, from compliancy to the strength and determination need to enforce “nice” behaviour. In the end it is only the relationship between Penny and Monica which holds the play together, and these two actors succeeded in making it work.

So it was not difficult to sing along with the cast at curtain call – just for fun.