Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Play On! by Rick Abbot

Play On! by Rick Abbot.  Presented by Queanbeyan City Council, directed by Jarrad West at The Q, Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre, May 10-21, 2016.

Set Design – Brian Sudding; Costume Design – Jarrad West, Joyanne Gough, Marya Glyn-Daniel; Lighting Design – Hamish McConachie; Sound design – James McPherson.

Photos by Gary Schafer

Reviewed by Frank McKone
May 10

Many years ago, when I was renting a room in a country town, my old landlady (goodness me, I’m her age now), after soup and mains, would inevitably plonk in front of me a bowl of pink fluffy stuff called ‘flummery’, a sort of frothed up blancmange.  I guess it’s long forgotten now, as I thought plays like Play On! had been.

This is not to say that Jarrad West and his team of largely well-known local actors have not done a good job.  The play is meant to be funny, and there were laughs which finally began to catch the spirit of farce in the last act, but the premise of the scriptwriting – let’s make fun of an amateur theatre group’s ineptitude – just doesn’t cut it in modern times.  In fact, I would say this kind of play was already out of date when Jack Sharkey wrote it in 1980.  No wonder he used a pseudonym – the mysterious, Rick Abbot.

Even the English farces, like The Reluctant Debutante (William Douglas Home, 1956) or Love’s a Luxury (Guy Paxton and Edward V Hoile, 1952) which I amateurishly acted in, in the late 1960s, were far better written.  As far as characterisation goes, only Tony Turner’s Henry Benish (“Lord Dudley”), Steph Roberts’ Violet Imbrey (socialite “Diana Lassiter”) and the exquisite bouncy twinkle-toes of Sian Harrington as Marla Smith (“Doris the Maid”) had enough in the writing to begin to compare.

Of course, it takes a professional quality of directing, design, acting and backstage operating to make a spoof of an amateur theatre group look like the real thing, and to the extent that the script allowed, this un-named company did a good job.  Even a flummery needs a good bit of beating to get up a decent head of froth – and flecks of the opening night of “Murder Most Foul” which the script presented for our delectation were suitably gross in taste and finesse.  The highlight in this achievement was undoubtedly Marion West as Aggie Manville – Stage Manager and Prompter extraordinaire.

The play within the play.

Micki Beckett as Louise Peary - Sound, Light and Scenic Technician
for Murder Most Foul

Steph Roberts, Riley Bell, Sian Harrington
as Diana Lassiter, Stephen Sellers, Doris the Maid
in Murder Most Foul

Bradley McDowell, Riley Bell, Steph Roberts
as Phillip Montague (author of Murder Most Foul),
Stephen Sellers, Diana Lassiter

Riley Bell, Steph Roberts, Duncan Driver
as Stephen Sellers, Diana Lassiter, Doctor Rex Forbes
in Murder Most Foul

Liz St Clair Long, Tony Turner, Duncan Driver
as Lady Margaret, Lord Dudley,
Doctor Rex Forbes (dead)
in Murder Most Foul