Wednesday, 10 September 2003

Certified Male, Sept 10, 2003

Certified Male
by Scott Rankin  and Glynn Nicholas  
 Her Majesty's Theatre, From Sept 10 to October(?), 2003

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Certified Male, written by Scott Rankin and Glynn Nicholas and directed by Terence O'Connell, is still hilarious four years after its inception.

It is a galloping, goofy comedy show about four corporate guys who go for a weekend retreat to a tropical resort in order to restructure the company. The boss, Jarrad,  (Frankie J Holden) is going through a life changing crisis.

The threat of his restructure strikes the fear of God into his three over-worked executives, McBride  (Peter Rowsthorn) Alex  (Glynn Nicholas) and Howard  (Berynn Schwerdt). Fearing for their jobs the men confront their insecurities.

Holden plays the straight guy to the three goofballs who work for him. Each represents a different sector of the high achieving corporate raider.

Nicholas is exceptional and charming, as always, as the insipid family man, Alex, who is afraid of the wrath of his upwardly mobile wife.

As the frazzled, rage-filled and thrice divorced McBride, Rowsthorn is achingly funny as he blusters and guffaws, looking as if he is about blow a fuse.

Schwerdt plays Howard, the confident, smarmy, perpetually single womaniser with great wit and manages to make him likeable despite his smugness.

The beauty of the show is its simplicity and unpretentiousness. The stage is almost empty apart from several gorgeously painted backdrops, a few chairs and a table. In pride of place on stage also is a versatile duo of musicians: Greg Riddell  on grand piano and Zoe Knighton  on cello.

The play intersperses witty, sometimes moving monologues with hysterically funny physical comedy, episodes between the four men and some lively and seven entertaining songs by the likes of Paul Kelly and Mark Seymour. The title song, Certified Male, and the finale, John Wayne, epitomise the issues in the show.

It is all funny, but some of the highlights include Nicholas's rivetting and precise mime, Alex and McBride getting lost in the jungle, the attack of a rabid monkey and a rescue at sea while the group is marlin fishing. But the gut buster is probably when the three execs get blotto and face off with their director.

The inspiration for the show was Steve Biddulph's book, Manhood. The men talk about broken marriages, affairs, bravado, pornography, sex, children, work and their overwhelming fear of failure.

This is identification theatre at its best. The two and a half hours zip by like lightning.

By Kate Herbert

Wednesday, 3 September 2003

Humble Boy by Charlotte Jones, MTC, Sept 3, 2003

Humble Boy by Charlotte Jones   
Melbourne Theatre Company
 Playhouse, Victorian Arts Centre, Sept 3 to October 4, 2003
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Humble Boy, written by Charlotte Jones, is like an older style drawing room comedy written in contemporary England.

It boasts a collection of eccentric characters in a village in the Cotswolds.  and peels back the curtains on their only very slightly murky and ordinary lives.

There is Felix,  a stammering astrophysicist,  his vain and supercilious mother, Flora,  (Julia Blake) her jovial, working class lover, George,  (Linal Haft) and Flora's daffy and devoted spinster companion, Mercy.  (Beverley Dunn)

Jones' concession to the modern world, apart from Flora's nose job, is George's daughter, Rosie,  (Rebekah Stone) who is a cynical, robust single mother. The play is an inoffensive light comedy with exceptionally good performances from the ensemble.

Director, Kate Cherry,  has staged it in a beautifully realistic English garden designed by the late Tony Tripp  and lit evocatively by David Murray  with original composition by David Chesworth.

Felix comes home from Cambridge  for his father, James' funeral. He finds not only that his childhood stammer returns but that his mother is to marry George, the local bus company owner. His grief is focussed on James' beehives that Flora eliminated. His only consolation is that the mysterious gardener (Terry Norris) says that one hive escaped.

Jones' script is entertaining but never challenging. There are jokes and character quirks with minor twists in the plot but it is rarely surprising.

Significant issues of grief, abandonment, disillusionment and mental disorder arise but are investigated superficially. Only in the last scenes do we feel moved or do the issues reach greater depths. Jones could be writing for a BBC light comedy.

The central relationship is that of Flora and Felix. It is a classic dysfunctional English mother-son relationship. Blake manages to make us love and hate the elegant and conceited Flora. Her comic delivery is impeccable as she parades through the landscape of her husband's scented garden. Her final emotional speech is beautifully rendered.

Haft captures the broad comic qualities of lovelorn George with gusto and Bower is suitably whining and weak as Felix. Dunn is a magnificent second fiddle as Mercy and received applause for her wonderful delivery of Mercy's pre-lunch prayer.

Humble Boy is a comfortable and amusing night in the theatre. Its greatest asset is its cast.

By Kate Herbert