Tag: Marg Downey

REVIEW: Malthouse Theatre Presents TIMESHARE

Excellent performances in eccentric new play

By Ross Larkin

Australian playwright Lally Katz is known for her offbeat, droll creations, and her latest effort, Timeshare, will no doubt please die-hard fans, though it is, as expected, an acquired taste which will not appeal to all.

Timeshare

Iconic comedienne Marg Downey plays Sandy, who is holidaying on a fictitious island resort positioned on the international dateline. Her lonely daughter Kristy (played by Brigid Gallacher) is vacationing with her, and looking for love with the likes of resort worker Juan-Fernando (Fayssal Bazzi​). Meanwhile, resort manager Carl (Bert LaBonte), is trying to sell timeshare packages to Sandy, while she becomes convinced Carl is romantically interested.

Touted primarily as a comedy, Timeshare unfolds more like a drama with the laughs thin on the ground. Downey is disappointingly responsible for virtually none of the laughter in, what is, a very sombre and vacant part. Naturally, however, Downey still delivers, although one might argue hers is more a support role than a lead. The rest of the cast also deliver – all equally as engaging and impressive in their performances.

The first half of the script is somewhat meandering and slow, with seemingly little purpose. Fortunately, the pace and stakes later pick up when the action is shifted to ‘yesterday’s’ side of the date line and the confusion which ensues reveals the sad truth of the situation.

Timeshare unexpectedly features singing and dancing throughout, enough to consider it a musical hybrid, though Katz insists it’s a play with musical numbers, as opposed to a musical. The songs by Jethro Woodward are appealing and often beautifully sung (in particular by LaBonte and Gallacher), but there are times when they seem ill-fitting with the story and characters, and the dancing especially is so self-aware and corny that it detracts from the show’s credibility.

There are some lovely metaphors which emerge here, and New York director Oliver Butler does mostly a fine job with this offbeat, peculiar piece, save for some of the more over-the-top, caricature moments. LaBonte’s solo singing finale about pools and chlorine for example, which, although performed incredibly well, felt like an inappropriate ending that seemed to make a mockery of the journey we’d just been on.

Timeshare is playing now at The Malthouse Theatre, 113 Sturt Street, Southbank until May 17. For bookings, visit http://malthousetheatre.com.au/whats-on/timeshare

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REVIEW: The Production Company’s LA CAGE AUX FOLLES

A little more mascara

By Ross Larkin

La Cage Au Folles began as a play in the 70’s by Jean Poiret until it was later remodelled into a musical by Jerry Herman. In 1996, Hollywood created the well-known film version, renaming it The Birdcage. Melbourne’s The Production Company last night opened their version of the musical at The Arts Centre, with Todd McKenney and Simon Burke as gay lovers Albin and Georges and a familiar supporting cast including Rhonda Burchmore, Gary Sweet and Marg Downey.

La Cage Au Folles - Todd McKenney and Les Cagelles

When Georges’ son Jean-Michel (Robert Tripolino) announces his engagement to Anne (Emily Milledge), matters accelerate to hysterical at the prospect of his fiance’s highly conservative and political parents (Sweet and Downey) coming over to meet Jean-Michel’s family.

Decidedly flamboyant transvestite Albin is deemed by Jean-Michel too risky and controversial to meet Anne’s parents and is advised to make himself scarce for the evening. When Jean-Michel’s birth mother fails to show, Albin steps in in all his convincing drag glory under the pretence of being mother himself, and hilarity ensues.

As with any famous and celebrated show, there are unavoidable audience expectations. In the case of La Cage Au Folles, it is safe to assume that giant laughs, flashy songs, spectacular dancing and tremendous energy are all somewhat anticipated.

Regretfully, The Production Company only gently hit the mark, waxing and waning in pace and stamina. The occasional musical number is quite impressive while too many others are underwhelming and forgettable.

The two leads are undoubtedly well performed, with McKenney in particular delivering much of the needed laughs and glamour, and Aljin Abella as the butler a consistent source of humour and force.

However, director Dean Bryant’s decision to merge La Cage Au Folles into pantomime territory with actors speaking to and interacting with the audience for extended periods (presumably to cover costume changes) was an ill-fated one, breaking from the struggling momentum even further.

Sweet as Anne’s father might have looked the part but was typically miscast, yelling every line with farcical irritation and further contributing to the pantomime domain. Downey and Burchmore were reliably enjoyable but sadly appeared all too briefly.

Essentially, Bryant and The Production Company have found most of the ingredients necessary to make La Cage Au Folles the dazzling spectacle it deserves to be, however, its current state feels underbaked, in need of increased pace, energy, stakes and more bold choreography.

La Cage Au Folles is playing at The Arts Centre Playhouse, Melbourne, until December 7, Wednesday-Sunday at 7.30pm and Tuesday December 2 at 7.30pm, with 2pm matinees each Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. Bookings 1300 182 183 or visit www.artscentremelbourne.com.au