Left – Francis Greenslade, Shaun Micallef. Cover – David Ross Paterson, Hayden Spencer, Drew Tingwell, Shaun Micallef, Grant Piro, Francis Greenslade. Photos – Jeff Busby
Divorce, a failed suicide attempt, three poker games, relentless vacuuming, clearing of sinuses and pseudo marital spats, spectacularly turn pain into funny, in Neil Simon’s comedy classic, The Odd Couple.
Rounding off MTC’s 2016 Season, under the deft direction of Peter Houghton, long time friends and creative collaborators, Shaun Micallef and Francis Greenslade, gloriously inhabit the characters of Felix Ungar and Oscar Madison.
Micallef, making his MTC debut, beautifully captures Felix’s neurotic, fastidious hypochondriac repressed tendencies, with Greenslade absolutely relishing and delighting the audience with his slovenly and sarcastic Oscar.
As the “odd couple” both actors physically bring these characters and their idiosyncrasies ‘to life’ so magnificently, (Micallef with those spindly, John Cleese-like legs) that one could imagine this pair, as the inspiration for the original Felix and Oscar way back in 1965.
From a historical context, it’s a work set against the backdrop of 1960s sexual politics (though some social mores still aren’t too different from today) and explores themes of order versus disorder, public versus private and change.
Simon as a playwright brilliantly uses his acerbic wit, to tell a sad situation humorously – Felix lamenting over his divorce by blaming his eccentricities and all too late self-realisation. For Oscar, it’s the escalating frustration at finding himself back in another ‘lousy marriage’ and Felix’s unwillingness to change. Prompting him at one point to shove open the window and holler, if you want to try again “the apartment is indeed, twelve floors from the pavement.”
All the cast were superb with their comic timing and delivery, allowing the language to have a natural rhythm and lyricism to it.
There was a slapstick chase routine, which was barking mad but a little bit fabulous, as well as, a clever little interplay between Felix and Gwendolyn confusing a soup ladle with a clutch purse.
I also found David Ross Paterson’s, Roy, a man with an acute sense of smell, highly amusing when he cracked it, after discovering Felix had disinfected the playing cards. Ditto the Pigeon Sisters and their double entendres.
Set and Costume Designer, Christina Smith is to be applauded for her attention to detail i.e. Oscar’s grubby white sneakers, skew-whiff venetian blinds and scatter cushions. And Props Department – when you’re done with it, I’d love that lounge and stereo console. I also thought the royal blue house curtain, with a deep pink Odd Couple logo in a retro font, was a nice touch and indicative of (and a homage to) the era. And not forgetting, the two go-go girls and luminous dancing hoovers behind a scrim curtain, for the scene change at the end of Act 1. Most ingenious.
So, can two divorced men share an apartment without driving each other nuts? Apparently not. Worth seeing? Absolutely.
Melbourne Theatre Company presents
The Odd Couple
by Neil Simon
Director Peter Houghton
Venue: Southbank Theatre, The Sumner VIC
Dates: 5 November – 17 December 2016
Bookings: 03 8688 0800 | mtc.com.au