Friday, 19 September 2014

Dead Set, Sept 18, 2014 ***

By Sue Giles and Ian Pidd
At La Mama Theatre, Sept 18 to 28, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ***
Review also published in Herald Sun in print on Wed Sept 24, 2014. KH

 Ian Pidd & Sue Giles

If you’re a teacher who dreams of being a poet, a composer or a painter, Dead Set will ring some bells for you.

Life partners, Sue Giles and Ian Pidd, now reputable directors, last performed this gentle, quirky show 20 years ago when, as comedy duo Shaken and Suspicious, they toured with their young children in tow.

Dead Set depicts the burgeoning artistic and romantic relationship between Lionel Tonks (Pidd), a shy, Maths teacher who secretly writes music, and aspiring lyricist, Verity Charity (Giles), who is actually the alter-ego of surly English teacher, Janice Black, whose double life is built on fantasies and lies.

Verity and Lionel write The Great Australian Musical called Humping My Swag, with its lead characters Mary, a widow with two children, and the Stranger she loves who faces hanging for a crime he did not commit.

The show is warm, sweet and funny but also bumpy and charmingly shambolic, with the highlights being the goofy songs with witty lyrics, Giles and Pidd’s wry humour and the ever-so-slightly demented but recognisable characters that they inhabit on stage.

As Lionel, Pidd is delightfully gauche and genial and his opening song as the lyrically-challenged Lionel (This Is A Song About A Chair) is very entertaining to watch as poor Lionel struggles to find words and rhymes for his perky tunes.

Pidd is amusing as both a blousy, uppity musical producer who thinks Australian musicals are worthless at the box office, and also as the bumbling ghost of The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

Giles switches hilariously between the flamboyant fantasist and compulsive liar, Verity, and her sour-faced doppelganger, Janice, and she even adds an exotic, third persona, Renata Carabini.

As Lionel and Verity, Giles and Pidd address the audience directly, engaging us with laconic asides and winks and turning any opening night stumbles into playful comedy.

Teachers will recognise the frustration of dealing with the interruptions, slow-wittedness or rudeness of Year 9F, and the occasional rewards of getting a sensible answer from a churlish teenager.

Dead Set is an amiable show that reminds us that less is more and a show can entertain without all the bells and whistles.

By Kate Herbert

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