Review of WWLT’s “Lovers at Versailles” by Karen Ractliffe


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Woy Woy Little Theatre’s current production is the bitter-sweet comedy, Lovers at Versailles by Bernard Farrell, author of Stella by Starlight (which was also staged by Woy Woy in 2009). Farrell is a multi-award winning Irish dramatist known for his work in theatre, television and radio, recipient of the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, the Sunday Tribune Comedy of the Year Award and the John B. Keane Lifetime Achievement Award to name just a few of his attainments.* Lovers, first performed at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, in 2002, is a bitter-sweet comedy reminiscent of shows like Mother and Son or Steptoe and Son in the way it exploits the humour, tensions and pathos inherent in the family dynamic. The action takes place in the immediate aftermath following the death of family breadwinner, Stephen Sullivan, and explores the family members’ varied responses to the loss. Ambitious and entitled younger daughter, Isobel, is mainly concerned about the future of the family business and her husband’s would-be footballing career while. Clara, Stephen’s widow, is fretting about the discovery of mysterious love letters apparently to addressed to Stephen and elder daughter, Anna, is trying to pour oil on troubled waters while protecting her father’s secrets. Caught in a tug of war between family demands and her own needs, she recalls an abortive past romance, reflecting on lost opportunities and present worries that she may inherit her father’s alzheimer’s. The humour derives from wry dialogue and the conflicting personalities and agendas of well drawn, well observed characters, not all of whom are likeable but they are nevertheless very engaging.

Director Barbara Hickey has over 50 years of experience with the group and it shows in her seamless direction of this potentially complicated drama which tells a story that takes place over a number of years. The plot involves a series of flashbacks which are cleverly handled so that the action flows effortlessly. Lighting, sound and technicals help to establish scene and make the transitions clear and accessible to the audience.

An exceptionally strong ensemble cast includes seasoned regulars like Shea Wicks, Short+Sweet award winner, Judi Jones, and Woy Woy life member, John Hickey – and also injects new blood like Theatrefest award winner, Tiffany Duncan, and Rohan Smith – both of whom are familiar to Wyong audiences for their memorable performances in Calendar Girls and Harp on the Willow – and Mark Shaw, who has appeared in a variety of theatrical productions and also television dramas such as A Country Practice and Home and Away. Shea is beautifully detestable as the sly, manipulative and domineering Clara, while Tiffany and Rohan make an entertaining double act as spoiled, brattish Isobel and her affable but socially insensitive husband, Tony. John endearingly portrays the warmth, charm and gentle humour of the late Stephen Sullivan, while Judi and Mark’s sensitive rendering of the mild mannered lovers, Anna and David, immediately engages the audience’s sympathy and anxiety for a positive outcome. Relative newcomers Renee Chinn, Patricia Nissen and Troy Clune who have cameo appearances toward the end of the play all make an immediate impression in their roles and I look forward to seeing more of them in future productions. All of the performances are nicely understated, subtle and nuanced, allowing the humour and drama to unfold naturally from the interactions between authentic, believable characters. The cast are also to be congratulated for successfully mastering their Irish accents. This was one of those rare occasions when I felt the accents were sufficiently natural that they added authenticity and texture rather than intruding on the performances. Congratulation to all involved for this thoroughly entertaining comedy and riveting personal drama, performed admirably.

Lovers at Versailles closes at the Peninsula Theatre this weekend, but tickets are still available for the final shows from http://www.woywoylt.com.au/ticketing (For assistance or phone bookings please leave a message at the Box Office on 4344 4737 and a volunteer will return your call within 48 hours).

Upcoming events

Woy Woy’s next production, Sherlock Holmes & the Suicide Club, will be staged in August. For details, please visit http://www.woywoylt.com.au/latest-news/sherlock-holmes-suicide-club

Auditions for their final production for 2015, Hay Fever, will be held at the Peninsula Theatre from 7pm on Monday & Wednesday July 6 and 8.

Please note: the FLASH directors workshop that was to take place next weekend has been cancelled due to circumstances beyond WWLT’s control. President Cjristine Vale has promised full refunds to all who have booked. The actors workshop that follows later in June is still going ahead. For full details, please click on

Flash 2015

 

* Biographical detail drawn mainly from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernard_Farrell Images courtesy of WWLT publicity.

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"About the Central Coast" is a FREE monthly ezine, supported by an online blog, that provides readers with a one-stop shop for information and reviews on all their favourite theatre groups, bands and artists on and around the Central Coast. Subscription to the magazine is free; just send an email with SUBSCRIBE in the subject line to about@y7mail.com The magazine is distributed by email on the first Thursday of each month. If you have an event you would like me to promote in the magazine, please send details at least three days prior. Items for the blog may be sent any time.
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