My Romantic History

Little Theatre. 3 Nov 2012

There are not too many amateur theatre companies that would choose to mount this production, and if they did the first thing they would probably do would be trim the offensive language, but more on that later.

D.C Jackson is a Scottish playwright and hadn’t really made a splash until he penned My Romantic History.  It was an award winner at the 2010 Edinburgh Fringe and has gone on to enjoy success elsewhere in the world; it will do well here in Adelaide in the capable hands of John Wells and the Theatre Guild.  It seems that Wells has Australianised the text, and this worked well. It drew many guffaws from the near capacity opening night audience.

The plot is rather cliché.  Tom has a drunken one night stand with office colleague, Amy that develops into a clumsy relationship that neither of them really wants.  It all becomes a total mess when they become pregnant. Neither of them really want it to be about ‘them’ – they want their individual lives to continue uninterrupted without the complication and responsibility of a child, or each other.  The text doesn’t add anything to the abortion debate, thankfully, and it doesn’t moralise or explore anything particularly interesting about the human condition.  What it does is skim lightly over rather extreme but shallow male/female stereotypes in a most hilarious way.

The structure of the play is interesting, but not unique – Jackson bends time – but that has been done before by other playwrights, and dare I say more cleverly.  We first see everything through Tom’s eyes and get to know him as a happy go lucky young man about town who has no problem pulling the chicks.  He seems to have as much testosterone as anything else coursing through his veins.  Then Jackson hits the replay button and the story is retold from Amy’s perspective. It all becomes a bit like Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.  Along the way we are introduced to a number of their friends and former lovers.

Simon Davey is excellent as Tom.  He was able to break the ‘fourth wall’ easily and directly address the audience with disarming and infectious comic timing.  It was a joy to watch and he never winced when his character had to utter the ‘c’ word; it almost came across as not being gratuitous - almost, but not quite. This is Jackson’s fault, not Davey’s.  For whatever reason, the ‘c’ word makes most of us visibly wince and cringe – it has to be the most reviled word in the English language – yet it features a number of times in this play.  The ‘f’ word is also used a lot, but most of us have developed immunity to it and it no longer offends.  In fact Davey was able to make us laugh.

Bronwyn Palmer was less successful in Act I as Amy, but hit her straps in Act 2; I suspect that is also a consequence of the uneven writing.  Justine Gaudrea-Fewster, Alexandra Lopez and Nick Fagan provided solid support as they played multiple roles, and Fagan is to be particularly congratulated.

Hayley Horton’s set was pure simplicity and included minimal props; clever use was made of office chairs which also doubled as beds.   Richard Parkhill’s lighting design was also simple and, like the overall design of the production, had a starkness about it that drew focus towards the extreme aspects of the characters personalities.  The sound design – not credited in the program – was rather odd and Bach’s first cello suite may never recover from being so inappropriately used!

The University of Adelaide Theatre Guild can be pleased with this production.  It is bold and brash and raunchy and fast paced.  It provides an entertaining night out that also showcases the talents of some fine young actors, but a great play it is not.

Kym Clayton

When: 3 to 17 November
Where: Little Theatre