Left – Christopher Stollery, Pamela Rabe and Philip Quast. Photo – Jeff Busby
When an audience walks into a theatre, be it cinema or stage, the allow themselves to enter another world. A world carefully constructed to entertain and engage, a place where romance still exists and the good guy can win. This fantasy world is by no means easy to achieve and the Melbourne Theatre Company's screwball comedy, His Girl Friday sets a cracking pace, appealing to the audience at all angles without overwhelming them completely.
It is with a pleasant sort of madness that His Girl Friday is performed, as both witty banter and physical comedy attempt to outdo each other in their silliness.
Set in the dank press office of Chicago's criminal courts, His Girl Friday is an amalgamation of John Guare's 1928 play The Front Page and the 1940 Hollywood film of the same title. The Newspaper Men who run the city take turns playing cards, drinking and running stories that are more sensational than accurate. The hot topic of the day is the impending hanging of "cop killer" Earl Holub (played by David Woods STC, Pygmalion). Holub's crime is merely a case of bad timing, the ex-German Jew is the Mayor's scapegoat in ensuring his future in office, presenting Holub as a Communist terrorist and himself as the hero who rids him from the city of Chicago.
However it's not all doom and gloom, the play is an extraordinary example of how much fun can be had in the theatre, with a stellar cast able to portray slapstick humour with touching sincerity and impeccable timing. Phillip Quast (Macbeth, South Pacific) as Walter Burns is the Managing editor bent on scooping the "real story" behind Holub's harsh sentence, not for any moral desire to save a man's life but rather for his own personal gain in the world of Newspaper Men and Chicago hacks.
Joined by his star reporter Hildy Johnson (Pamela Rabe, God of Carnage, Much ado about Nothing) and current ex-wife, Burns is determined to lure Johnson back into the salacious world of reporting and win her heart as well. What ensures is nothing short of hilarity. Rabe is a tough talking city girl, who wants to leave her past behind in order to marry insurance salesman Bruce Baldwin (Christopher Stollery) and yet can't resist the temptation of a Pulitzer Prize winning story.
His Girl Friday is a grim and gritty look at the sensational world of journalism and proves that very little has changed in the profession over the last century. Technology may have evolved, but the desire for sensational stories over truthful reporting remains ever as prominent in 2012 as it did in 1940's Chicago.
His Girl Friday is nonstop action from start to finish and the sheer energy of the performers is astounding. Combined with the pages of overlapping dialogue, the performers offer a whirlwind of entertainment that is nothing short of joyous. Both dramatic and pantomime, His Girl Friday is far too much fun to resist.
Melbourne Theatre Company presents
His Girl Friday
Adapted by John Guare from the Front Page by Ben Hecht and Charles McArthur and the Columbia Pictures film
Venue: Playhouse, Arts Centre St Kilda Rd Melbourne
Dates: 11 August – 15 September, 2012
Tickets: from $56
Bookings: 03 8688 0800 | mtc.com.au