Good comedy is never easy
By Myron My
A synopsis of STiFF by April Phillips reads like the premise of a wacky new TV sitcom: a prostitute inherits a funeral parlour from her estranged father. The land is worth millions but to claim it, she must run the business for five years. Undeterred, she gets her three ‘colleagues’ to assist and use the parlour as a secret brothel. However, had this been a TV sitcom, I’m afraid it would not have lasted more than a few episodes.
The set design by Shawn Klueh and Ashley Reeves was by far the strongest element in this show. They were able to blend both environments – funeral parlour and brothel – quite nicely with simple touches to convey the juxtaposition of these two worlds.
STiFF had much comic potential so it’s disappointing to note the script was quite weak. Given the fun one could have combining sex and death, a lot of the humour felt either very juvenile or something that my grandparents would have a quiet giggle about.
Furthermore, I don’t feel like the script stayed true to the characters it attempted to bring to life. They were full of stereotypes and clichés and lacked any real depth. This is mostly evident in Sherry (Lauren Bradley) the ditzy one who just can’t get a clear thought. Bradley does the best she can with this one-dimensional character but she is ultimately forgettable.
Aynslie Watson as protagonist Angel Delight seemed awkward and unsure of herself the night I attended. There are times when you do see some life being breathed into her character but for the most part, she was unfortunately not able to carry the show. Similarly, Claire Watt as Roxanne Paine lacks the conviction, intimidation and strong presence that a dominatrix ought to have. She looked the part with her leather corsets and tattoos but the delivery of lines had me in no doubt that this was someone pretending to be someone else.
Marcus Ingleby as transvestite Delilah had the strongest performance on opening night. He was convincing and confident in his role and he delivered the best laughs throughout, especially during his scenes as Father Father.
From a directorial perspective, there were numerous times that all four actors needed to speak up to be heard which resulted in punch lines being missed. What was even more frustrating though was the number of times the actors had their backs to the audience as they were performing in scenes so comic expressions or reactions were lost.
STiFF may have had cast and director changes in the last twelve months, but I feel they still could have taken more time to improve this show. Work needed to be done with the actors and their character development and understanding, and sadly the writing just wasn’t up to scratch. Perhaps the lesson learnt here is it’s more important to focus on putting on a really good comical show than just putting on a show.
Venue: Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran
Season: Until 25 August | Mon-Sat 8:00pm, Sun 5:00pm
Tickets: $30 Full | $25 Conc
Bookings: www.chapeloffchapel.com.au or 8290 7000