(Disturbing Mavis, The Stair and Champagne Ladies)
© Copyright 1998
Written & Produced by Darren Brealey
Theatre Review Written By: Bernadette Kelly
Position: Arts Journalist
Publication: Stage Whispers
Dated: August 1998
With Three Shorts, Darren Brealey has written an eclectic mixture of observations that manage, somehow, to connect. Prior to the show, presented at Collingwood’s Workhouse Theatre, a complimentary glass of champagne and a friendly welcome helped to atone for a chilly evening.
First on the program was Disturbing Mavis. Directed by Shaun Oxley, this is a look at the practical side of growing old, and the not-so-attractive consequences. Elizabeth Penny is convincing as the bored and slightly confused elderly woman, living in a nursing home with her husband, Alfred, played by Jamie Wilson. Mavis fills the boredom of her days by reading and engaging in one-sided arguments with an inert Alfred. When ambulance officers and nurse arrive to take Alfred away, we discover the reason for Alfred’s inertia and witness Mavis’s frustration and helplessness. This scene could have included some dialogue from the nurse. Her mute compassion let in an air of implausibility that threatened to permeate the rest of the storyline. Overall, Disturbing Mavis was a sad but all too often accurate portrayal of the treatment of aged citizens.
The Stair is a far less sombre but equally truthful observation. Mr Green (Jamie Wilson) is the company boss. He meets Carson (Tim Constantine) in the stairwell. It’s lunchtime, Mr Green is incredibly busy and the lift is broken. Through the two protagonist’s conversation, we learn that the task if getting the lift repaired is anything but a simple one. Meetings, faxes, memos, signatures, and all the trappings of bureaucracy at its most ridiculous are a part of this farcical exchange. Tim Constantine comes across well as Carson, the ever efficient but overworked clerk and Jamie Wilson does justice to the absent-minded boss who falls foul of his own time and money-saving strategies. Darren Brealey directed this amusing piece himself. There was a few rough edges that needed smoothing, but the message as clear.
Again directed by Darren Brealey, the satirical Champagne Ladies was definitely my favourite. Miranda King and Elizabeth Penny are Narelle and Darlene. These two darlings are the epitome of all that is offensive with the society set. Preened, primped, cut and set, the pair meet at one of the in places to see and be seen. Keeping a sharp eye out for their well-heeled colleagues and guzzling down champagne, the audience is witness to a prattling stream of inane gossip that has its origins at every gala ball and celebrity luncheon on the social calendar. With the children packed away at boarding schools and husbands off doing deals, the lives of these women are an endless round of charity functions, where one must definitely be seen but never twice in the same outfit. Miranda King has a repertoire of fabulous faces for this role while Elizabeth Penny has perfected the art of tipsiness. Tim Constantine is the dishevelled waiter who can barely suppress his contempt, a view that I couldn’t help but share. This was a very funny play. My only concern is that the substance-lacking personalities that are portrayed might actually exist - what a tragedy that would be.