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.
Sunday, 23 April 2017
Three Little Words,, April 22, 2017 ***1/2
THEATRE By Joanna Murray-Smith,
Melbourne Theatre Company Southbank
Theatre The Sumner, until May 27, 2017 Reviewer: Kate Herbert on April 22, 2017 Stars: ***1/2
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on April 27, 2017 and in print. KH
Peter Houghton, Catherine McClements- Pic Jeff Busby
separation is not a contagious condition, witnessing the breakdown of friends’
relationships may be distressing and it can certainly be unsettling for other
Little Words by Joanna Murray-Smith, Tess and Curtis (Catherine McClements,
Peter Houghton) blithely announce to their closest friends, long-term couple,
Annie and Bonnie (Kate Atkinson, Katherine Tonkin), that they are splitting
after 20 years of wedded bliss.
follows is the brutal, and often funny dismantling of Tess and Curtis’s
marriage as well as the destabilising of Annie and Bonnie’s relationship as
they are forced to confront the rusted-on patterns of behaviour in their own,
begins as absurdly reasonable negotiation between Tess and Curtis soon develops
into nit-picking criticism that morphs into vindictive arguments then escalates
into scrappy, idiotic physical fighting.
quick-witted dialogue and Sarah Goodes’ sleek direction keep the action moving
and the emotional conflict searing.
captures Tess’s manipulative and insensitive nature without losing our
sympathy, despite Tess being absolutely slappable when she spouts pop
psychology, declares her ‘yearnings’ to find herself outside of her marriage,
or denigrates Curtis’s choice to be a school teacher.
convincingly portrays Curtis’s evolution from confused, beleaguered and
obliging husband to confident, happy, middle-aged man who moves on with his
life – rather too quickly and successfully for the women around him.
plays the naive and loving Annie with warmth and sensitivity, allowing her
gentle and accepting nature to shine despite the criticism she suffers when
Bonnie treats her as a lovable under-achiever.
Annie’s partner, the capable and high-earning art-dealer, Tonkin balances
Bonnie’s patronising and controlling behaviour with her fierce loyalty and
of their alarming and childish behaviour and their obvious flaws, all four
characters are strangely likeable, perhaps because of the familiarity of their
living areas of the two couples’ homes sit atop a suspended, solid square floor
that revolves between scenes (design by Michael Hankin), gives the impression
of time passing, the world spinning and people changing but the overall effect
is disorienting for both audience and characters.
the brutality of the demise of Tess and Curtis’s relationship is alarming, it
is also recognisable and Murray-Smith’s treatment of it is witty and