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Nathan Schulz Presents

Review: The Kingfisher

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Review: The Kingfisher

The Javeenbah is a fantastic theatre: an intimate space located close to the motorway, so ideal for locals and visitors from Brisbane (100 comfortable seats, great lighting set up and excellent facilities following the 2002-03 rebuild).  For over 40 years, the Javeenbah Theatre Company has offered a program of 6 productions a year, bringing comedies and musicals to a local audience.

The Kingfisher appears to be an ideal choice for Javeenbah members. A light romantic comedy that has been successful on both sides of the Atlantic: with Broadway success (staring Rex Harrison and Claudette Colbert) and a more recent British touring production (staring Francis Matthews and Honor Blackman). The playwright had an excellent pedigree for writing sit-coms about upper-class Brits. Born into an aristocratic family, William was the younger brother of Sir Alec Douglas-Home (British Prime Minister). William also had a brief political career, but is perhaps best known for writing around 50 plays—apparently most built on his personal experience, being comedies set in upper-class homes.

The program prologue sets the scene. Fifty years ago Cecil Warburton (Chris Hawkins) wooed Evelyn Rivers (Viviane Gian) under a beech tree, but lost his bride-to-be to the now-recently deceased Reggie Townsend. Five decades later Sir Cecil (now a successful playwright) makes contact with the widow, inviting her to visit the home he now shares with his faithful butler, Hawkins (Graham Scott). The routines established by Hawkins, during almost fifty years of devoted service to his master, seem certain to be disturbed by Sir Cecil’s plans to propose. As Lady Evelyn hot-foots it straight from the funeral to see Sir Cecil for afternoon tea, the scene is set...The play sees the retelling, and unravelling, of anecdotes about Sir Cecil’s love life, and of tales of Lady Evelyn’s life since she left the amorous Cecil fifty years earlier. By the second act we have the much-anticipated proposal and Evelyn’s abrupt departure for another possible second husband. 

Sadly this 1977 play has not travelled the decades well, and I feel even the best actors would struggle a little. Certainly I was not convinced that Sir Cecil was the love of anyone’s life. Scott’s role has all the best lines, and some great opportunities for ‘business’ during the play: from the delight in re-telling exaggerated tales of his masters caddish behaviour, through to the distraught over-hearing of Cecil’s protestations of love. Gian played Lady Evelyn role with great style, which made her impressive unravelling (as she drank her way through numerous Sidecars, and lots of spirits) even more amusing. The second act was much more enjoyable than the first—where the talented Director, Nathan Schulz (see my earlier review of his most recent work in 2 Across), creates great humour around the proposal/dénouement. But I suspect that even Francis Matthews struggled to bring out the best in this play.

Pictured (L to R): Sir Cecil Warburton (Chris Hawkins). Lady Evelyn (Viviane Gian), and Hawkins (Graham Scott). Picture Credit: Geoff lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Sir Cecil Warburton (Chris Hawkins). Lady Evelyn (Viviane Gian), and Hawkins (Graham Scott). Picture Credit: Geoff lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Congratulations to the production team—in particular costume designers Christine MacLachland and Gillian-Eve Butcher (Lady Evelyn’s outfits were just perfect). On the first night I did find some of the lighting changes were a little abrupt, and while the fountain helped to create the impression of a running stream it became a little distracting. But these are problems that are easily rectified.

The script, however, is very much of its time, and is probably best left back in the 1970s.

 Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended The Kingfisher at Nerang’s Javeenbah Theatre, on Saturday, 27th May 2017, 8pm. The Kingfisher has nine performances (26th May to 10th June, 2017).

Tickets $20-$25. Two acts, one interval.

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Review: 2 Across

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Review: 2 Across

It’s just after 4am and two people meet on the San Francisco BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). The desire to sit in a “lucky seat,” and a shared interest in completing the “sadistic Saturday” New York Times crossword, lead to a flirtatious conversation between this modern ‘odd couple.’ In an intimate production of this funny, witty and entertaining script, the audience are fellow passengers during the 80 minute trip. Nathan Schulz Presents (NSP) and the Brisbane Tramway Museum have produced a show that demonstrates the best aspects of the Anywhere Theatre Festival—an annual theatrical celebration which brings nooks and crannies from across Brisbane (and beyond) to life.  We may all be at the Ferny Grove Tramway Museum, sitting on a real Brisbane tram, but we are soon enthralled in the ‘will they won’t they’ interplay between Candice Dittmann (She: ‘Rita’/Janet) and Nathan Schulz (He: ‘Tom’/Josh). 

‘She’ is the organised, sensible, Catholic psychologist—who sees crosswords as “a metaphor for life – those who finish, succeed, those who don’t fail.” ‘He’ is about to return to a career in advertising; the Jewish son who has a track record of failing to commit, and who has walked away from a 25 years working in the family button business. At best, She seems him as a “charming free spirit,” initially implying that he is not “mensch“ ('mensch' is a Yiddish compliment, suggesting honour and integrity). He is clearly alarmed that she carries a range of books (including an atlas) to help her complete the crossword, and feels that she needs to reassess her rigid approach to life. It appears that the only points they have in common are an interest in crosswords and being married (to other people). But nothing is quite what it seems.  

Pictured (L to R): Candice Dittmann (She: ‘Rita’/Janet) and Nathan Schulz (He: ‘Tom’/ Josh). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Candice Dittmann (She: ‘Rita’/Janet) and Nathan Schulz (He: ‘Tom’/ Josh). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

The direction is impeccable (a great use of the space), the ‘off-stage’ Foley work superb (hats off to the hard-working front of house and voice artist!), and the tram is a perfect space for the show (complete with comfortable seats, suitable lighting, excellent acoustics, and movement!).  But the stars of the production are Dittmann and Schulz. The actors create two convincing characters, performing their lines in a highly-believable and natural way. Soon we really are voyeurs, travelling in the carriage, watching two people only lightly resist a growing mutual attraction. Having seen them in this show I will certainly look out for other opportunities to see them perform.

Pictured (L to R): A crossword clue. Candice Dittmann (She: ‘Rita’/Janet) and Nathan Schulz (He: ‘Tom’/Josh). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): A crossword clue. Candice Dittmann (She: ‘Rita’/Janet) and Nathan Schulz (He: ‘Tom’/Josh). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

There is no gratuitous sex or violence, no earth-shattering world-changing themes; just a charming, flirtatious, witty romantic comedy. Perfect for a first date, an anniversary celebration, or as a Mother’s Day gift. This is what it ‘says on the box’ (“a comedy of romance and crosswords”). The humour has a witty, light, flirtatious touch, but you don’t have to be passionate about crosswords (or worry about being dragged to see a soppy romance) to enjoy this show. The play is charming, funny, and beautifully acted and directed. Oh, and you get to visit the tramway museum and ride on a real Brisbane tram! The only disappointment is that it closes on 12th May.

So cancel any plans for tonight or tomorrow, buy a ticket (or two) and enjoy.

Tickets $25-$30 (why not enter into the spirit of the show and purchase the $30 ‘romance package,’ complete with rose of course) https://anywheretheatre.com/listings/2-across/.  80 minutes.  The show has a mere 4 performances during the Anywhere Festival (tickets still on sale for 11th and 12th May).

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the 10th May 2017 (7:30pm) performance.

An Amateur Production By arrangement with ORIGIN Theatrical on behalf of Samuel French Inc.

 

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