Thursday, January 29, 2009


Theatre at Baddow


A group of amateurs gather to put on a play. We recognize the obsessive, fussing about moves and props, the quiet one who spectacularly loses it, the over-affectionate middle-aged woman, the ineffectual director and the bipolar luvvie, whose idea it was to stage this ridiculously ambitious Mozart opera.

The difference is that these people are in a mental hospital, and there's a pyromaniac and a junkie in the mix, too.

Australian playwright Louis Nowra has a strong, if hardly original, situation and a group of great characters. But I did get the feeling he didn't always know what to do with them. Perhaps the play reflects their lives – infidelity is always with us. And it's no surprise that their show is a qualified success, watched by the catatonic in the front stalls, the schizos at the back.

Director Lorraine Ely, who also played Cherry, set the piece in the round, which did give immediacy, though some of the less experienced players struggled to be heard. Excellent performances from Roger Saddington as the dreamer and Vince Webb as Henry, with his toy soldiers and right-wing rants. Sheila Talbot worried about reality, illusion and the froth on the coffee, and Graham Harrison made a wonderful Zac, standing up there in his lederhosen and his tattoos, playing the [Wagner] overture on his squeezebox.

All credit to TAB for showing us new work from overseas. Connoisseurs of the “let's put on the show right here in the asylum” genre should note that Marat/Sade comes to CTW in June.

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