Wednesday, December 5, 2018

CODA FOR SHIRLEY


Written by Geoff Page
Directed by Kate Blackhurst
The Acting Company in association with Shadowhouse Pits
The Courtyard Studio, Canberra Theatre Centre to 8 December

Reviewed by Len Power 4 December 2018

The third part of a trilogy by Geoff Page, ‘Coda For Shirley’ follows on from ‘Shirley and Lawrie’ and ‘Cara Carissima’.  Shirley, now in a nursing home, talks about her will.  Her two very different daughters, Jane and Sarah, discuss the will after Shirley’s death while reminiscing about their mother and their past relationships.  Jen, the girlfriend of grandchild, Jack, provides a next generation perspective to the story.

Like the earlier plays, this gentle, affecting story is written by Geoff Page in verse.  It works very well, giving the play a slightly dreamy touch which suits this memory play perfectly.  The carefully chosen words flow beautifully and they effortlessly provide colour and depth to the characters.  We don’t find out what is in Shirley’s will until late in the story and this adds a nice tension to the play.

Working in verse requires skilful playing.  Director, Kate Blackhurst, has obtained fine performances from her cast of four women.  At the centre of the play, Micki Beckett is thoroughly believable as Shirley, playing all facets of her colourful character with warmth and assurance.  Elaine Noon excels in a measured performance as the more down-to-earth sister, Jane.  Nikki Lyn Hunter, who also played Sarah in ‘Cara Carissima’, gives a finely edgy performance of a bitter woman who suffers from self-deception.  Alex McPherson is a strong presence as the grandson’s girlfriend, Jen, displaying a more forthright and self-aware personality than the sisters.

The simple set design by Ronan Moss works very well and is well lit by Ben Pik’s lighting design.  Neville Pye adds some nicely subtle sound effects to the action.

The pace of the show has been well judged by the director and it moves from scene to scene quite seamlessly.  This is a story we can all relate to and ‘Coda For Shirley’ is an enjoyable and satisfying end to Geoff Page’s trilogy.

Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast in his ‘On Stage’ performing arts radio program on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3.30pm on Artsound FM 92.7.

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