Flinders University Performing Arts Society. Bakehouse Theatre. Preview Show 22 Jan 2020
“What is the fate of English farce during the emergence of the #metoo generation?” asked Peter Goers on hearing of this Flinders production at the Bakehouse. Surely the new generation of actors would not wish to promulgate scenes of lascivious older men engaging in trysts with young women?
Well, yes. They would and they have. And they have made it as absurdly funny as playwrights Ray Cooney and John Chapman intended when thy penned Move Over Mrs Markham. None of the predatory males gets his way. And, for that matter, nor do the women old and young who are equally prepared to have devious dalliances. It takes two to tango, as they say in the classics. The sleazy blokes need sleazy playmates, however upright and proper they may ostensibly be. For that is part of the humour.
But how can one produce a classic farce within the constraints of the Bakehouse Theatre?
Well, the ingenuity of theatre designers has never let the size of that gem of a theatre obstruct the scale of a show. Here, with some cunning carpentry, they have installed a mass of very 60s-looking orange doors, plus the odd curtain, enabling the protagonist to flit from entrance to concealment to cross purposes.
The set is its own little comic period piece, its decor dominated by a clichéd Mondrian print, a floral lounge suite, a showy round bed and some old school pine furniture. Oh, and two rotary landline phones which are kept quite busy throughout the play.
As a first-time director, Scott Sharrad shines with some distinction for the astute timing and clearly well-rehearsed standard of the production. Among the things he had to overcome was directing inexperienced millennials to step into the shoes of boomers. If at first the incongruity stands out, the cast soon wins over in establishing their given characters. Among the players, it is Lucas Tennant with his excellent voice, delivery, and comic responses in the role of the hapless children’s book publisher Phillip Markham who really owns the show. Nicole Walker supports strongly as his would-be controlling wife with a lovely range of exasperated facial expressions while Thomas Hodgkison is a beguiling mass of contradictions as the interior decorator. Alistair Spenlow, Aiden Fitzgerald, Christine Pearsall, and Alana Lymn provide strong support, Lymn bringing the house down in her cameo transformation to Swedish au pair. Leanne Marshall is a picture of precision as the children’s book author with Nathan Ibele and Olivia Case filling out the cast with spirited characterisations.
Together, complete with tech team, they call themselves FUPAS and one must say their arrival on the city theatre scene is a bold and engaging one; a lively challenge of anachronisms and a test of the endurance of classic theatre comedy. The comedy definitely wins. This is a funny show. Onya, FUPAS. Keep ‘em coming.
When: 22 to 25 Jan
Where: Bakehouse Theatre