Book and Lyrics by Doug McLeod
Music by Yuri Worontschak
Directed by Aarne Neeme
The Q Theatre, Queanbeyan to 27 March
Reviewed by Len Power 23 March 2021
One of the most recognizable names in Australia, Margaret Fulton’s impact on Australian cooking was immense. The Margaret Fulton Cookbook encouraged Australian housewives to experiment with more interesting ingredients, straying from the old tradition of meat and three veg. She was awarded an OAM in 1983 and was later identified as a National Living Treasure. She died in 2019.
“Margaret Fulton: The Musical” began life as “Margaret Fulton - Queen Of The Dessert” in Melbourne in 2012. Based on Margaret Fulton’s biography, “I Sang For My Supper”, the play consists of scenes depicting important milestones in her life from just before the Second World War to her successful years as Australia’s best known cooking personality and writer.
The book of the show by Doug McLeod presents these moments in her life but we never really learn how Fulton became the success that she was. Was it all just an accident or was she more calculating and cleverer than that?
There are no memorable songs in the music score by Yuri Worontschak and it all sounds like songs you’ve heard before. The flow of the play is constantly interrupted by songs that merely comment on the action that has just taken place. They don’t add anything new or help to propel the story forward. Many of the songs just finish abruptly, leaving the audience uncertain whether to applaud or not.
The small cast work hard to bring this show to life. In the leading role, Judy Hainsworth gives a fine performance as Margaret Fulton, singing and acting with great charm. Jessica Kate Ryan and Zoё Harlen have some good moments as Fulton’s mother and friend, Bea.
The three other cast members play multiple roles and perform as chorus in some of the songs. There’s not much scope for sharp characterizations and some of the cast just over-act instead.
The substantial kitchen/dining set has been nicely designed by John Bailey. There needed to be a better sound balance between the singers and the music. It was often hard to hear the lyrics clearly when the music was too loud. The choreography by Dan Venz seemed to be just movement for the sake of it.
Director, Aarne Neeme, kept the show moving at the right pace and obtained some good performances from the actors but there’s not much else that could have been done with this disappointing show.
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‘Theatre of Power’, a regular podcast on Canberra’s performing arts scene with Len Power, can be heard on Spotify, ITunes and other selected platforms or at https://player.whooshkaa.com/shows/theatre-of-power.