The drawing room comedy doesn’t get a lot of attention in the repertoires of Australian playwrights however it seems that Wayne Tunks has taken it up with something of a vengeance.
His latest offering, ‘Hell Hath No Fury’, playing at the Newtown Theatre introduces a few novel elements to this well serving genre with varying degrees of success.
The play centres on a suburban Sydney hair salon. Roberta, the salon owner, given a sustained interpretation by Allison Griffiths, has developed it into something of the psycho-social outlet for its staff and clients alike. It eventually generates into a group of women vigilantes against domestic violence. It’s all very bitchy and good fun with a series of deftly sketched stock characters to populate the play.
Surprisingly Tunks has introduced a cast size dramatically increased from that normally associated with the genre which is more aligned with the four handers of Maugham and Elliott. Here the cast squares up to sixteen.
The space provided by the Newtown Theatre inevitably increases logistics of the play in positioning for sight lines alone. Both Tunks in his role as director and Lynden Jones, the assistant director, certainly manage to accomplish this.
Tunks has also chosen to use the character of Freddie, Roberta’s high school daughter, played with great verisimilitude by Jessica Fallico, as a sort of chorus in the first Act introducing some of the key players. The purpose for this escapes as the text and characterisation seem quite enough to delineate them without the further contrivance.
In the second Act he introduces an orchestrated musical item to lead in with. This works well as it allows the play to sidestep the need for a detailed explanation of the outcome of the dramatic suspense with which he closed the first Act.
The play moves straight from there into the denouement initially set up between Roberta and the Sappho styled temptress, Paula, stylishly performed by Bree Desporough. This segment was quite detailed but was sustained by the depth of characterisation given to the participating characters.
There followed however a string of personal statements from pretty much each of the character in the production most of whom, by reason of time alone had not been filled out to the necessary degree to sustain the involvement. It was here that the play became unwieldy and overblown.
The light and often deft thrust of Tunk’s riposte style was absent as was the adroit management of the moving point of gravity which had served so well in the first Act. The comedy came dangerously close to becoming a clinical analysis.
The style of the drawing room requires that the moral being demonstrated be carefully disguised in order that it not appear to take itself too seriously.
On the whole the comedic timing of the performers was very good however the overall dialogue was delivered at an inconsistent pace. Tunks’ dialogue normally serves this style of play very well delivered at a natural pace where it bangs up against itself and overrides. Here it never seemed to get into its rhythm and at times was left suspended.
The set design by Lyndon O’Rielly was functional with the pervasive red lending to the production the sense of radical foments that was the undercurrent of the play. Lighting by Lydia Kelly followed a fairly predictable pattern assisting its mood and structure. Music, which contained original work by Heinz Schweers unfortunately, lacked clarity in the reproduction and was at time muffled and distorted.
Certainly there was no lack of ingenuity in terms of the ultimate resolution and after a somewhat laboured second half it redeemed itself in the style to which the genre is accustomed.
The cast includes Jade Alexander, as Jane, Marion Baird as Clara, Angela Beal, as Yvette, Emily Beale as Ocean, Isla Borrell as Deborah, Felicity Burke as Linda, Kathryn Forsatz as Anne, Neveen Hanna as Hannah, Emma Harris as Sammi, Kate Maree Hoolihan as Emilia, Ivy Mak as Rita, Jacinta Moses as Sarah and Millie Zinner as Libby.
Hell Hath No Fury
Written and directed by Wayne Tunks
Venue: Newtown Theatre
Dates/Times: Nov 21 to Dec 22, Tuesday to Saturday 7.30pm
Tickets: $30 / $25 concession; groups 8+ $24; Tuesdays $15; students on Wednesdays $12
Previews: Nov 21 and 22 all tickets $10
Bookings: MCA Ticketing 1300 306 776 or online www.mca-tix.com