Tragicomedy when Victorian poetry meets the Pussycat Dolls

By Rachel Holkner

The Great Game opens with two spinster sisters trying to establish the correct quality and volume of grief suitable to mark the passing of their “dear papa”.  Their rigid social expectations dictate that they sip sherry and wait for callers. None arrive. They venture then into the mysterious room that is their father’s study in order to sort his papers. What follows is an amusing exploration of Victorian social mores with scattered commentary on modern values.


Georgiana and Elizabeth, living an isolated life on a large property somewhere in Australia, seek comfort from their situation by reverting at first into childhood games and then into more animalistic behaviours. Directed by Rosina Gannon, the superb physicality of the actors (Charlie Laidlaw and Katherine Connolly) leads most of the humour in these scenes.

Using music and out-of-character references to technology, the play explores both the strict Victorian codes of conduct expected of the women and their desires to find identity of their own. What would a Victorian lady make of a Facebook profile? Why shouldn’t she let her hair down and fling it around to the sounds of the Pussycat Dolls? This is a play of contrasts in storytelling styles and subject matter.

By reciting things by rote – long-ago received letters, poetry and Bible verses, by acting out a part, by playing with items from around the study the grown-up sisters explore aspects of themselves that have been long repressed.

The appearance of a dashing character (Bernard Caleo) found in old papers of their father’s adds another layer of dramatic storytelling emphasising a life out there that is not for them. Exotic lands of mystery, dangerous treks, and conversations with foreigners all contribute to the tragicomedy of Georgiana and Elizabeth’s life.

The Great Game is tremendous fun. The three actors do a marvellous job, covering the small stage with their fantasies. I look forward to seeing further works by Laidlaw and Connolly.

Venue: La Mama Courthouse, 349 Drummond Street, Carlton

Dates: JANUARY 29 – FEBRUARY 16, Wed and Sun 6.30pm Thur to Sat 7.30pm

Bookings: or 03 9347 6142