Photo - Jon Green
Tom Stoppard once said; “I think theatre ought to be theatrical... [so] there's always some kind of ambush involved in the experience.” Baby Boomer Blues has its own ambush – it’s called boredom.
The play is “back by popular demand” after a season late last year. Who demanded it? I demand to know. Opening night was not a sell out and, judging by the lacklustre applause at the finish, there seemed to be a distinct lack of demand. The surprising thing is that Baby Boomer Blues is written and directed by one of Perth’s best known and most prolific theatre writer/directors, Alan Becher. He’s had some big hits over the years. This, I’m afraid, for me, is not one of them.
Baby Boomer Blues is about the baby boomer generation and the two actors in it are baby boomers. Actually, that’s not quite right; one of them is a boomer, the other one is married to a boomer. Keep up please people.
So, we have married boomer couple, Bob (Ian Toyne) and Carol (Michelle Fornaiser). Said married couple can’t stand each other anymore. Said couple fight all the time. On stage. For two hours. As entertainment. Now, I am boomer spawn. No. My parents were not kangaroos. Please people, keep up. And my friend for the evening is a boomer. We’ll call her B. For Boomer. Get it? I know.
So you’d think that between us we’d get some enjoyment from this boomer fest. But you see, I spent my childhood listening to boomers fighting and B needed a stiff drink by the end of it because it brought back horrible memories. And all this from “an hilarious comedy”. You’re beginning to see my point. I knew you would. This “entertaining portrayal of married life” is a tense experience for anyone who’s ever been in, or had to listen to, a couple who can no longer bare the sight of each other. And I’d say that’s – oh – about all of us.
The play takes an awfully long time to come to the point. Baby-boomer Bob (Toyne) has quit his job in search of something more fulfilling, so his third wife, Carol (Fornaiser) has become the breadwinner. Carol is desperate for a getaway to reinvigorate their marriage (give up! I wanted to cry, but held back for decorum’s sake) and so the couple embark on a journey to Thailand. There are a few moments in the second act where you begin to realise what the play is really about and find some empathy and interest and then, suddenly, it’s over. There are several long sequences that provide nothing in terms of the plot and could be cut from the script, which I think would benefit it greatly in terms of pace and sense.
The performance from Ian Toyne is a good one. He injects a natural warmth into a character that we’re all familiar with – the grumpy old man. B said that character was spot-on and could well have been her ex-husband, Mr. B, so clearly Becher knows about grumpy old men. Michelle Fornaiser as Carol is not so convincing, and not at all helped by the poorly written character she has to play. She is the most un-bookish bookshop owner you’re ever likely to meet and she’s given no room to develop as a character. Her performance was way too big for the writing and she was given only one level - mean – which is hard to watch for two hours. Despite all this, Fornaiser and Toyne work well together and both have good comic timing.
The visually dull set doesn’t add much to the clichéd script, and as usual when Downstairs at His Maj, I was left wondering why directors struggle to think outside the square in that space.
The baby boomer generation is ripe with wonderful images and Becher seems to have skipped over most of them. There are numerous references to Western Australian places and people, which got some laughs; “The world is a terrible place – look at Somalia, Bosnia, Northbridge.” But it’s the clichés by the truckload that begin to wear thin: “I’ve told you a millions times not to exaggerate” and; “I’m trying.” “Yes, you are, very.” Are just two examples, and are extremely funny. When you’re ten.
I say go see it just to prove me wrong and then come back and harangue me for the fun of it. You never know – you might like it.
Perth Theatre Company
Baby Boomer Blues
Venue: DownStairs at the Maj, (His Majesty’s Theatre), Hay Street, Perth
Preview: Wednesday 9th July 2008
Dates: Thursday 10th July – Saturday 26th July 2008
Times: Monday - Thursday 7:30pm
Friday and Saturday 8:30pm
Tickets: Standard: $40/ Concession: $28.50/ Groups: 6+ppl:$30
Bookings: BOCS on 9484 1133 or www.bocsticketing.com.au