Handle With Care(l-r) Kathy Burns, Judy Hainsworth and Kathryn McIntyre. Photo - Juanita Broderick

Renowned Brisbane composer and writer Megan Shorey is back in Brisbane after taking home the best musical gong at the 2009 Sydney Theatre Music Festival. And her latest offering, Handle With Care, should deservedly cement her reputation as one of Australia’s brightest new talents.

Directed by Matilda award-winner Lewis Jones, Handle With Care takes a comic-tragic look at what it means to be a modern woman. Covering everything from motherhood to menopause and beyond, this bite-sized musical treat is divided into four sections, each looking at issues that were very familiar to the female audience members.

We all recognized parts of ourselves in the eight women onstage; the mother who has lost her identity but can’t lose the baby weight, the power-broker who has given her youth and passion to a job that gives nothing in return, the idealistic girl on the eve of her wedding. Shorey’s women and their dilemmas are instantly recognizable, tapping into a vast catalogue of shared experiences

The wonderfully evocative score moves effortlessly from dark to light and is beautifully served by a cast made up of Rachel Dunham, Penny Farrow, Sarah Knight, Judy Hainsworth, Liz Buchanan, Kathy Burns, Arlie McCormick and Kathryn McIntyre. All the performers deserve much praise. Not only could they all act but “wow” could they sing. To put it bluntly I was totally blown away by their unique vocal qualities both in group and solo work.

The standout performances of the evening for me were Sarah Knight as the embittered corporate slave and Penny Farrow as the mum who is convinced that if she can just lose three kilos her life will be perfect. As a recent inductee into the hallowed halls of motherhood myself I have banished the full-length mirror from my house so it takes courage to get up on stage and strip off in front of an audience.

The uncomplicated presentation, which could be summed up as eight chairs and a band, gives Handle with Care an intimate feel. I felt like I was sitting in a café commiserating and laughing with a group of girlfriends rather than watching a production. Director Lewis Jones does a fantastic job keeping the pace taut. What really impressed me about the show was how polished it was and it’s to Lewis’s credit that all the elements came together to make such a pleasing whole.

Handle with Care is perfect ‘girl’s night out’ viewing. It’s funny, moving and unpretentious. And best of all it’s actually entertaining. Guys, you might want to put this on your ‘to do’ list – who knows – you might actually learn something…

Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts and Joymas Creative present
Handle With Care
Written and Composed by Megan Shorey

Director Lewis Jones

Venue: Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts |  420 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley
Dates: 14 - 17 April, 2010
Time: 7.30pm
Tickets: Full $35. Concession $30
Bookings: www.judithwrightcentre.com.au

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