Thursday, 5 September 2013

Lost In Ringwood, Sept 5, 2013 ****

By Barry Dickins, La Mama
La Mama Courthouse , Sept 5 to 22, 2013
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
 Review also published in Herald Sun online on Sept 9, 2013 and later in print. KH 

 Carolyn Bock & Helen Hopkins. Photo by Antony Rive

In Barry Dickins’ hilarious play, Lost in Ringwood, the banal collides with the literary and the intellectual meets the idiotic.

Dickins is the gift that keeps giving, with his idiosyncratic style that I call ‘poetic suburbanism’, and Greg Carroll’s inventive direction heightens the grotesque and the gothic, dovetailing pathos with absurdity and a few songs (Faye Bendrups).

A mother and daughter play out their warped, co-dependent relationship that is based on conflict, mutual loathing and despair – and plenty of insults and manipulation.

Helen Hopkins plays the poisonous and conceited Mama, Rose Viper, with a pinched, sneering cruelty and a burning nostalgia for her youth as an actress.

Carolyn Bock balances poignancy with comedy as her unloved daughter, Cynthia (Rose calls her ‘Sin’), shifting from fawning child to insecure romantic hoping for love – and a publisher.

The production design (Peter Corrigan) looks delicious with its milky-silky drapes and the women costumed (Amelia Carroll) in an icy confection of lace and tulle, frothy ice-cream headdresses, blood-red shoes, zombie-white faces and scarlet lips.

The audience howls with laughter then, just as the show seems to run out of steam, it surprises us again with more pathos, tragedy and hilarity.

There is an inspired, black-and-white, on-screen appearance of sleek, handsome, Hollywood TV star, Guy Williams, who played Zorro then John Robinson in Lost in Space in the 60s.

The script is riddled with witty word play – Ringwood becomes  ‘Ringworm’ – and a comic highlight is Mama’s rant that compares Hitler’s Third Reich with a greedy Ringwood Council.

“We used to be happy before you listened to Leonard Cohen,” laments Rose. “How one longs for a kind word – even if it comes from Bentleigh.”

Lost in Ringwood is hysteria on valium and it proves that a misery shared is definitely not a misery halved in this dysfunctional family.

By Kate Herbert

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