Sunday, 28 April 2013

True Minds, MTC, April 29, 2013 ***

By Joanna Murray-Smith
Melbourne Theatre Company 
Sumner Theatre, MTC, Southbank, Mon May 29 to June 8, 3013 (Previews 25-27 April) 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Mon April 29 
Stars: *** 
This review published in Herald Sun on line on April 30, 2013, then later in print. KH

Meeting the prospective in-laws, introducing the beloved to one’s parents, and struggling with the ex-boyfriend is the stuff of many a romantic comedy, and True Minds, Joanna Murray-Smith’s new play, mines the comic possibilities of it all.

The hapless Daisy (Nikki Shiels) – successful writer of a book about men not marrying women that their mother’s don’t approve – scrambles to impress Vivienne (Louise Siversen), the right-wing mother of Daisy’s lawyer fiancĂ©, Benedict (Matthew McFarlane).

Daisy’s mother, Tracey (Genevieve Morris), is an old-fashioned, hippy feminist; her father, Maxim (Alex Menglet), is a celebrated, philandering, left wing political animal; and Daisy’s former boyfriend, Mitch (Adam Murphy), is just out of rehab.

Daisy is hurled into the bear pit when they all arrive at her home at once.

Murray-Smith’s text satirises all the characters, making them more caricatures than fully rounded personalities, which is a double-edged sword for this production as it provides laughs but leaves the characters and story two-dimensional.

She pokes fun at the foibles of the Left, the Right, the rich, the radicals, the social climber, the media personality, the opinionated, the substance abuser – you name it, she smacks them.

There are some witty social observations and good laughs at the expense of everyone but the story and the drama seem to get lost in the flurry of arguments that often turn into shouting matches or drunken rants.

In the latter half of the play, a couple of sentimental speeches abut love cannot compete with the reference to Shakespeare’s famous love sonnet, “Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediment.”

Director, Peter Houghton, keeps the pace and energy up with plenty of physical and visual gags scattered amongst the dense, but often overly wordy, comic dialogue.

Strangely, the play really takes off after 60 minutes when Benedict, the absent fiancé played hilariously like a prancing peacock by McFarlane, arrives and becomes a pivot for the dramatic action.

The cast is clever and funny, hurling themselves into the roles, with Shiels, as Nikki, being buffeted about like a shuttlecock, Murphy plays Mitch as a teasing provocateur, and Siversen is bold as the “reactionary shrew”, Vivienne.

So, which man does Daisy choose for a husband? –The bad boy, recovering addict, former boyfriend, or the clean-cut, conservative lawyer? Now, that would be telling.

By Kate Herbert

Director - Peter Houghton
Set & Costume Designer -Tracy Grant Lord
Lighting Designer -Rachel Burke
Sound Designer -Ben Grant
Assistant Director -Sarah McCusker

Matthew McFarlane (Benedict Perring), Alex Menglet (Griffin Grayson), Genevieve Morris (Tracey Grayson), Adam Murphy (Mitch Carter), Nikki Shiels (Daisy Grayson), Louise Siversen (Vivienne Reynolds)

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