Theatre review: The Weekend, Belvoir

Charlotte Wood's acclaimed novel is faithfully brought to the stage.

As the character of Jude reminds her friends of multiple occasions: ‘This is not a holiday.’ The Weekend is a tale of three very different women who have reunited in less-than-ideal circumstances. Adapted by Sue Smith from the revered book by Charlotte Wood, The Weekend portrays a witty and moving story of the lives of three life-long friends as they face up to their circumstances past, present and future. 

Under the careful guidance of director Sarah Goodes and dramaturg Ruth Little, the audience is taken along on a compelling emotional, and often hilarious, journey over three days in the lives of these women, whose friendship has spanned four decades. The friends recall their past successes and losses, as well as attempt to come to terms with challenging present circumstances and uncertain futures as ageing women in a less-than-forgiving society.

The three women – all in their 70s, or their ‘crone years’ as one observes – have reunited at the beachside holiday home of their friend, Sylvie who has recently died. They are: Jude (Toni Scanlan), a staunch, ex-restaurateur who is now a “kept woman”; Wendy (Melita Jurisic), a highly successful academic with a shopping list of PhDs; and Adele (Belinda Giblin), a struggling actor whose partner has just kicked her out of the home and who is desperate to find work in an industry in which ageing is a severe barrier. We all wish for long-lasting friendships such as these women have. You can tell there’s a deep unconditional love, despite them often irritating each other and amid the recollection of some painful memories. 

Owing to the intelligent scriptwriting, the characters bounce off each other throughout the play. Despite a slightly flat beginning, the script and acting quickly pick up, managing to hold the audience for the entire one hour and 40 minute-long performance. Sufficient detail is provided to get a picture of the lives of each of the women, but lines are delivered at a snappy pace, which holds attention. The audience bear witness to an honest and at times vulnerable opening up of the three characters, frequently interrupted by cutting jibes at each other – particularly as the champagne flows – as we know only those closest to us are capable of. There are some sharp in-jokes that theatre regulars will no doubt appreciate. The three women have a vivacious energy, feed off each other and are obviously having a ball on stage, leading the audience to easily believe they could even be friends in real life. 

The only other characters to feature on stage are Wendy’s loyal dog, Finn, and young man named Joseph (Roman Delo). The dog, who serves as a touching reminder for Wendy of their departed friend, remains on stage throughout almost every scene, cautiously observing the group and also acting as a symbol of mortality. He’s an elderly canine with diminished cognitive skills and several times loses control of its bodily functions, much to the disgust of the uptight Jude. The dog is skilfully controlled by puppeteer Keila Terencio. Joe is the only male character, a pretentious young director who serves as a point of difference to the older characters. When Adele, in an impressive performance by Giblin, starts flirting with Joe in a dance-off, it is one of the most amusing scenes in the show.

Read: Dance review: The Other Side of Me, Darwin Festival

The circular stage of wooden beams represents a patio or veranda of the holiday home. Multiple props populate the space – boxes of Sylvie’s things, ice buckets of champagne and Christmas decorations. It is insinuated that the inside of the house is just off the stage. Lighting is effective and bold, serving to highlight the drama and directing the audience as to what time of the day it is, while spotlighting the actors as they deliver particularly poignant points of dialogue. Music is a mix of emotive backdrop and classic hits, which the woman sing along to, emboldened by several glasses of bubbles. 

Sharply observed and extremely funny, The Weekend traverses some well-trodden universal themes with impressive talent and charm. 

The Weekend, Belvoir St Theatre
Adapted from the book by Charlotte Wood by Sue Smith

Director: Sarah Goodes
Set Designer: Stephen Curtis
Costume Designer: Ella Butler
Lighting Designer: Damien Cooper
Composer: Steve Francis
Sound Designer: Madeleine Picard
Puppetry and Movement Director: Alice Osborne

Puppet Maker: Indigo Rose Redding
Choreographer: Charmene Yap
Dramaturg: Ruth Little
Special Effects Makeup Artist: Amelia Fell
Video Designer: Susie Henderson
Assistant Director: Abbie-lee Lewis
Stage Manager: Luke McGettigan
Assistant Stage Manager
Mia Kanzaki

Cast: Roman Delo, Belinda Giblin, Melita Jurisic, Toni Scanlan, Keila Terencio
Tickets: $37-$93

The Weekend will be performed until 10 September 2023.

Sarah Liversidge is a journalist and writer from Melbourne with various obsessions including politics, social issues and art in all its forms. She is currently completing a journalism degree at RMIT university where she is an editor at the student run publication, The Swanston Gazette.