Successful young couple Jim and Gabby have hectic schedules, each with fulfilling work commitments. They make time for a Friday night dinner with Jim’s childhood friend, Bob, who has been drifting in and out of relationships but has now found happiness for three whole months and counting. Expecting another blonde airhead, Gabby is staggered to meet Florence, a retired lady full of poise, self-assurance and true lust for life.
Director Jeffrey Jay Fowler treats us to an exquisitely timed collection of awkward moments that ring just a little too true to life for comfort. Chris Isaac’s thoughtful script’s potential is brought out by Fowler’s sure eye for casting and subtle echoes in the staging, where Fowler has worked with Adriane Daff to embrace the main themes with quirky details in set design.
Nicola Bartlett is brilliant as Flo, a subtle performance as a larger than life character who pushes herself to be extraordinary, but holds her own self-doubts and fears close. It is rare to see such well-written roles specifically for this demographic, and Bartlett makes it work so well that it seems ridiculous that more scripts don’t utilise a mature woman as a romantic lead.
The younger actors provide lovely ensemble work, while each also explores their own character’s departures from societal norms and values. As Gabby, Arielle Gray delivers a spot on, concise impression of a certain “type”, trying to impress herself as well as those around her. Gray captures not only the anxieties and awkwardness of limited suburban imagination and experience but moves beyond her own limitations in her closing epiphany. Nick Maclaine’s Jim is affectionate and idealistic, besotted with his niece and yearning for children of his own. His sincere happiness, after an initial period of incredulity, for his friend’s discovery of a strong relationship and rewarding companion is delightfully expressed. Tim Watts’ portrayal of Robert draws its strength from the honesty of the character’s good humour. He is consistently believable as the subject of affection from all and sundry, stunned at the good fortune that finds him on his feet and loving life with Flo.
Technical aspects of this production fall in with the script, Joe Lui’s lighting effects further emphasising visual iterations of the main themes. Brett Smith’s sound design enhances the feeling of isolation, of a moment waiting to be seized, as wine is poured and drunk and the rain causes the roof to drip.
Exciting independent theatre from innovative theatre company The Last Great Hunt, exploring subject matter that concerns us in this modern world – living in large houses without room for children, couples working at cross-purposes, the dangers in the pursuit of freedom from death through living life to the fullest, inter-generational friendships and what happens after a few too many bottles of wine.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Presented by The Last Great Hunt and The Blue Room Theatre
Written by Chris Isaacs
Directed by Jeffrey Jay Fowler
Lighting Design: Joe Lui
Sound Design: Brett Smith
Assistant Director: Adriane Daff
Set & Costume Design: Adriane Daff & Jeffrey Jay Fowler
Dramaturg: Gita Bezard
Performed by Nicola Bartlett, Arielle Gray, Nick Maclaine and Tim Watts
The Blue Room Theatre, Perth Cultural Centre
14 April – 2 May 2015