Thursday, 1 December 1994

A Hard Act to Follow by Peter Dann, La Mama, Dec 1994

 A Hard Act to Follow
by Peter Dann 
La Mama until December 18, 1994
Reviewed by KATE HERBERT
The Melbourne Times, Dec 1994

Have you ever noticed that parents invariably have horror stories about their creche? Kindergarten councils can be a hotbed of dissent and unrest. Teachers  clash with parents, clash with Montessori, Steiner or traditional methodologists.

A Hard Act to Follow by Peter Dann at La Mama reveals an older traditional and prudish teacher, Miss Hawthorne, who has been attempting to fill the shoes of Miss Gully, the previous kindie teacher beloved by yuppie children and parents alike. Miss H. has called an extraordinary meeting of the kindie parents to tell her tale of woe which has lead to her summary dismissal by the Council.

Dann's writing is cleverly crafted, allowing Miss H. herself to slowly and unwittingly reveal her participation in the sequence of events which have relegated her to Kindie Mistress Limbo. The language is formal and complex with witty asides woven into the cynical dialogue. Dann carefully observes details of kindergarten life: the sausage sizzle, the sandpit and its place in the yard, the kinder bunny and its demise, the pedagogic speech patterns.

Anne Phelan  plays the peculiar and obsessive  Miss Hawthorne with a touch of the maternal, the tartar, the bitter and beleaguered. Her madness filters through her apparent calm and bravado as she attempts to win us, the audience-come-parents, with a lecture detailing instances of her 'devotion' to the vicar who employed her, her dubious employment references and her ongoing battle with the sceptical Council President.

This is a funny and poignant monodrama which allows us to feel sympathetically toward the unbalanced Miss H and yet to feel guilt tinged with relief as we vote her out of a job. We watch her helplessly as her apparent self-defence collapses into paranoid desperation.


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