Wednesday, 16 July 1997

The Mourning After by Verity Lambert, July 16, 1997

The Mourning After by Verity Lambert
Alexander Theatre & Regional Tour, July – Aug, 1997
Reviewer: Kate Herbert around July 14, 1997

'I'd like to see that again I enjoyed it so much,' said a grey-haired woman to her companion on leaving The Mourning After. She was one of the many over-50's who flocked to the Alexander Theatre at Monash to see Nancye Hayes in a mid-week matinee.

This monodrama by Verity Lambert appears to have been written as a vehicle for musical comedy star, Hayes. Belle has been a chorus-line singer and radio serial star ('it lasted three years longer than Blue Hills'). During the play she agonises whether to accept a singing role as Ned Kelly's mum.

The inimitable Hayes sings snatches of tunes and concludes the show with Ellen Kelly's melancholy song about her dead son. This echoes with Belle's grieving over the death of her cantankerous husband who was "an unfunny comedian but a born bank teller'.

 She struggles with guilt and grief. Did her insistence on taking the role cause Harry's heart attack? Did she do it accidentally-on-purpose? The script unfortunately skims the surface of notions of grief, loss and family conflict.

Hayes is engaging as Belle and the audience responded warmly in laughs and applause although her slightly mannered performance is not always comfortable.

I don't want to be a killjoy but this show is not my cup of tea. A second viewing does not enhance the show. The text is neither deftly written nor well constructed, the character lacks depth and the direction is predictable.

Director Tony Sheldon, also of musical comedy background, has set the piece on an uncluttered stage against a plain seascape (Trina Parker) that echoes traditional theatre backcloths. Its simplicity is practical and effective for a touring show.

Sheldon has allowed no interruption to the constant flow of Lambert's words. In fact, silence is a major deficiency in this production. The script is often painfully expository, repeating ideas in different words. Often the persistent self-commentary is unnecessarily duplicating the on stage action.

The treatment of the audience as beach side gulls and, in Act Two, a stormy evening is clumsy although it allows Hayes to address us directly and breaks the pattern of self-narration. The piece has a predictable rhythm, building to peppy chatter, reminiscence, suddenly interrupted by sadness followed by introspection and self-flagellation.

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