PERTH INTERNATIONAL ARTS FESTIVAL: The Matchmaker

Perth International Arts Festival's The Matchmaker which had an incarnation as a musical Hello Dolly in 1955, is an old-fashioned play about the challenges of love, sexuality and personal fulfillment in the rural, religious and political environment of Ireland.
PERTH INTERNATIONAL ARTS FESTIVAL: The Matchmaker
The tradition of matchmaking in Ireland dates as far back and beyond the Great Famine. It was often the solution to the problem of inheritance i.e.: young girls with little land could be married off to farmers who needed a wife, and also a pair of sturdy hands to work – an answer to a practical necessity. The Matchmaker, which had an incarnation as a musical Hello Dolly firstly in 1955, is an old-fashioned Irish play which focuses on the challenges of love, sexuality and personal fulfillment in the rural, religious and political environment of Ireland. This two-hander is played out in the intimate theatre restaurant setting of Downstairs at His Majesty’s and is the latest offering from the Perth Theatre Company. In a local Irish town the story tells of mismatched couples, lovelorn singles and foppish hopefuls in their forties, whose love lives are aided by the local matchmaker Dicky McDicky. Told in a ‘letter monologue’ style, the sagas ebb and flow through a series of characters roDicky (Ingle Knight) is like an old-fashioned version of a RSVP dating service sitemanager, who himself is happily married to Kate. Dicky corresponds with his sister in Philadelphia about the town’s antics and she with him about a similar dating service in America, but it is the local hopefuls that occupy most of his time. Absorbing and funny actor’s piece seamlessly put together by accomplished yet first time director for Perth Theatre Company, Michael McCall, with the ‘arrivals’ of letters being deftly delivered in a folkish vaudevillian style. The multi-faceted set by Steve Nolan serves this play well evoking a snug, and country environment which the actors use with delightful precision. Ingle Knight is a vivid storyteller with a relaxed stage presence and expressive facial mannerisms to suit each of his multitudes of characters well drawn. The landed fop whose antics with a riding crop and golf club would be a stand out as he requests a lady in her forties or even a young boy to suit his kinky sexual appetite. Other praise goes equally to Nicola Bartlett with her willowy stature bringing grace to lonely Irish widows’ demeanour, and her comic knack vocally. The audience was in peals of laughter at her big lady Agnes Tatty who really wants a piece of the action. Although a challenge for this opening night audience to maintain stamina due to the late ever increasing number of characters and stories trotted out by Keane, the production would be a real crowd-pleaser for mature audiences having been ‘around the park a few times’ out of love, or penultimately in it. PERTH INTERNATIONAL ARTS FESTIVAL: The Matchmaker VENUE Downstairs at the Maj 825 Hay Street, Perth PERFORMANCES Saturday 14 March 2009 to Saturday 4 April at 7.30pm TICKETS Standard - $40.00 Concession - $28.50 Previews - $30.00 Group (6+) - $20.00 Students Rush (15 minutes before the show) - $15.00 School Groups - $20.00

Gillian Clark

Monday 16 March, 2009

About the author

Gill Clark is an arts hub reviewer based in Perth.