Bombshells by Joanna Murray-Smith, is six monologues about women all on the brink of falling apart. It is a funny, witty insight into everyday Australian women.
Originally commissioned by Simon Phillips for the Melbourne Theatre Company, Murray-Smith wrote Bombshells as a solo performance for Caroline O’Connor. For this Perth performance, Director Alan Becher has split the monologues between three performers, Jenny Davis, Michelle Fornasier and Christie Sistrunk.
Over the course of the night, the audience is introduced to a frazzled mother and a bride to be (Fornasier); a cactus loving wife and a widow (Davis); a teenage wannabe star and a fading singer (Sistrunk).
In 2003 I had the pleasure of seeing Caroline O’Connor’s performance. She was outstanding, effortlessly moving between each monologue, and it is hard not to make comparisons.
This production was very good, but did not live up to O’Connor’s version. Although hilariously funny (particularly the frazzled mother monologue) and insightful, there was little connection between the monologues, and it felt like a talent show night rather than an intertwined show.
The simple black set by Steve Nolan consisted of a large archway and a triangular flat stage. It was bleak and lacked setting – I would have liked to see more props or a piece of furniture! The costumes were appropriate and I loved the wedding dress, although the red dresses used for the curtain call were tacky.
Two lighting towers stood upstage and sitting on the side, I found these distracting. Overall the lighting (Matthew Marshall) and set created a stark atmosphere – with nothing visually to detract from the performers. Whilst it focused your attention, in some parts I found my eye wandering to the audience for want of something new to look at.
The music was simple, mainly used for scene changes, although having just worked for a theatre company that only uses live music, I found the pre-recorded sound too distant and disconnected.
I question the use of three performers over one; although I appreciate it’s hard to find a person who would excel in all parts. The highlight for me was Fornasier. She filled the stage with energy and had the most entertaining facial expressions for her characters. Kudos for making it through the monologues – both were fast paced, with a seeming lack of pauses and punctuation!
Each audience member is going to have a different favourite though. My companion preferred Jenny Davis’s Winsome – the Widow. Both of us struggled with the final character of Zoe Struthers (the fading superstar). Was she meant to be so cringe-worthy? Was she meant to be drunk? I’m not sure if it was the direction or Sistrunk herself, but it was the weakest performance.
This is definitely a play for the girls although the men seemed to be enjoying it too. It is wonderful to finally see Murray-Smiths work performed in WA. Her work is always insightful, with characters you relate to and witty dialogue. Bombshells is no exception, and this performance is a new, solid interpretation of a brilliant play.
Perth Theatre Company presents
by Joanna Murray-Smith
Venue: The Playhouse
Dates: 28 April - 12 May 2007
Times: Mon @ 6.30pm, Tues - Sat @ 8pm (except Sat May 12 @ 8.30pm); Matinee - Sat May 12 @ 4.30pm
Tickets: $42 Full, $34 Conc.
Bookings: BOCS on 9484 1133