Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Thursday, 24 July 2014
Mother and Son, Comedy Theatre, July 24, 2014 ***
By Geoffrey Atherden Comedy Theatre, Melbourne, until
Aug 24, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars:***
A shorter version of this review went online in NEWS, Herald Sun at 9.50pm on Thurs July 24 and will be in print on Arts pages on Monday July 28, 2014. KH
Darren Gilshenan & Noeline Brown. Pic by Lachlan Moore.
you have ever felt a twinge of antipathy towards a parent, spare a thought for
poor, beleaguered Arthur Beare whose mother has held him an emotional hostage
for his entire adult life.
a flurry of excitement, nostalgia and laughter, Maggie and Arthur Beare are
back in the house – literally – in this newly minted, stage version of Mother
and Son, Geoffrey Atherden’s acerbic, 1980s, Australian sit-com.
two much-loved characters are reincarnated live on stage by Noeline Brown
(Maggie) and Darren Gilshenan (Arthur), whose consummate comic skills do justice
to these treasured characters originally brought to life by Ruth Cracknell and
intimate family comedy, directed by Roger Hodgman, is naturalistic,
identification theatre with characters that are still relevant in 2014 and dialogue
that is sharp-witted and well observed.
comedy relies on the maddeningly dysfunctional but predictable relationship
between lonely and frustrated Arthur and his manipulative, carping mum, Maggie.
gets no support but a lot of excuses from his successful, selfish and deceitful
brother, Robert (Shane Jacobson), the dentist, and Robert’s mouthy, snobbish wife,
Liz (Nicki Wendt), with her ever-so-slightly affected vowels and sassy manner.
is achingly funny and exasperating as Maggie, the mother of all mothers, whose days
revolve around keeping Arthur tied to her apron strings with her expert
emotional blackmail, complaints, intrusiveness and real (or often fake)
is suitably daggy as Arthur and captures his dejection and desperate need to
escape from his deceptively benign and fragile jailer, Maggie.
sabotages Arthur’s leisure time by reading aloud while he watches the footy,
banging out chopsticks on the piano or falling into a dead faint in order to ruin
Arthur’s potential romance with Anita (Kellie Rode), his new girlfriend.
are some flat spots when the pace flags, the cueing is slow or the dialogue is
just a little too twee.
production could do without the awkward, filmed scenes of the two grandchildren
(Jade Redman, Dylan Redman) Skyping Maggie. Their greedy self-centredness might
more effectively be revealed through indirect references to their selfishness
Arthur provides a rib-tickling cameo as Monica, the haughty resident in the
respite care hostel, while Kellie Rode plays Anita with relentless
cheerfulness, despite the character being underwritten and two-dimensional.
hits a nerve with his satirical, but realistic depiction of the repeated
cold-calling phone salespeople and collectors who try to scam Maggie, only to discover
that she is the greatest con artist of them all.
opening night, Brown leans on a walking stick on stage because she is recovering
from a broken femur, which brings authenticity to the theatrical good wishes,
“Break a leg!”
this new play, Atherden’s beloved Maggie and Arthur remain treasured icons in
Australian comedy and we can forgive any bumps in the production.
By Kate Herbert
Shane Jacobson & Darren Gilshenan. Pic by Lachlan Moore.