Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Still Unqualified


Still Unqualified by Genevieve Hegney and Catherine Moore.  Ensemble Theatre, Sydney, April 29 – June 4, 2022. Commissioned by Ensemble’s Literary Fund.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
Opening Night May 3

Joanne/Various: Genevieve Hegney
Felicity/Various: Catherine Moore
Director: Janine Watson
Set & Costume Designer: Hugh O’connor
Lighting Designer: Kelsey Lee
Composer & Sound Designer: Daryl Wallis
Video Designer: Morgan Moroney

I picture these excellent comedy performers not exactly writing this play, but surely having as much fun taking on their basic characters – Genevieve as the more conventional, less risk-taking Joanne; Catherine as the often wildly inventive try-anything Felicity – and improvising the most unlikely jobs they might take on as completely unqualified service providers; as much fun as we had watching the end result.

I, unfortunately, never saw their original work Unqualified, presented at Ensemble in 2018 but it was obvious on opening night for Still Unqualified that most of the audience knew the sort of show to expect.  Here’s the basic picture:

Joanne: Genevieve Hegney and Felicity: Catherine Moore
in Unqualified (2018), Ensemble Theatre
Photo: Phil Erbacher

What we didn’t expect was a technical glitch in the software running the lighting, voice-overs and videos which turn this two-hander into a much bigger show than it, at first, seems.  The weird thing, to me, was that the glitch, and the ten minute wait to fix it, caused as much laughter in that reality as the fiction created before and after the break.  This audience felt thoroughly comfortable in the Ensemble, no matter what might happen.

Of course, for me to reveal details of the absurdities that create the comedy would be remiss.  Suffice to say that the unexpected scenes and fascinating angles that Joanne and Felicity took in dealing with each situation – as well as the range of other characters that Genevieve and Catherine played to link scenes – made for often excruciatingly funny comedy.  Satire played its part, surely, too.

I suspect that Still Unqualified completes our understanding of the relationship between these two, giving the fun a new value beyond mere (even when satisfying) enjoyment.  Joanne, in dire straits financially after her divorce, finds herself strengthened by Felicity’s diving in to unlikely possibilities; Felicity changes her understanding of herself through Joanne’s need to know about past truths.  When Felicity accidentally discovers and reveals a current truth, they find they have formed a family of their own.  Life, for which we are all unqualified, is absurdly amusing, even if at times risking fearful difficulties.  But in the end it is the warmth of our humanity that our laughter is all about.

Still Unqualified is a vision of the positive that makes life worth living – and well worth going to the theatre – at the Ensemble in its unlikely boatshed in Kirribilli.  As you will discover, it is a great Starry, Starry, Night out.

Joanne: Genevieve Hegney and Felicity: Catherine Moore
as art gallery guides in Still Unqualified

Joanne: Genevieve Hegney and Felicity: Catherine Moore
singing together in Still Unqualified, Ensemble Theatre
Photos: Prudence Upton