Wednesday, 14 April 1999

Secret Bridesmaid's Business, 14 April 1999

by Elizabeth Coleman
Playbox at Merlin Theatre from Aril 13 to May 1999
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Why do people have weddings when so many are such tense occasions? Alcoholic Uncle Alf gets drunk, the flowers wilt, the bridesmaids' dresses are wrong, the photographer's late - the list of woes is endless.

The one hitch that never occurs to you is that the groom is having an affair with the bride's friend: not her best friend, mind you, but a friend nonetheless. Here begins the litany of wedding eve disasters for Meg Bacon (Ulli Birve') in Elizabeth Coleman's new comedy, Secret Bridesmaids' Business.

Meg's bridesmaids, Angela and Lucy (Tara Morice, Kate Johnston) suspect her fiance', James (Fred Whitlock) has recently had an affair with Meg's workmate, Naomi (Rachael Beck). We cross all our limbs hoping it is not true.

Coleman's script, directed by Catherine Hill, is a light-hearted romp with lots of laughs at the expense of the entire bridal party. We never see the actual wedding, only the chaos of the preceding twelve hours in the bride's city motel room.

The whole cast has a fine time with the gags although, at times, some are pushing too hard. The highlight is marvellous Joan Sydney as Colleen, mother-of-the bride. Sydney is a consummate comic performer who delivers lines with exceptional timing, a broad North country accent and some hilarious physical business.

Mum has so much invested in her daughter's wedding she does not realise she has taken over the whole shebang right down to folding the place cards and approving the fabric on the bridesmaids' shoes.

Tara Morice is very funny and suitably gauche as Meg's oldest friend, Angela, who is conservative, married with children and committed to leaving Meg in the dark about the alleged affair.

The dynamic of the play is uneven. The main problem lies with the interruptive device of using a monologue to unmask each character's inner world. The story would be better served by the emotional detail being revealed in dialogue.

The play keeps it simple. It has no sub-text so it can concentrate on the central issue of friendship: do you lie to protect your friends or do you risk hurting them with the truth? The point is made early in act one and so seems laboured by act two. But the jokes keep on coming. It is a comedy after all - and a good one.

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