Louis Nowra’s play set in a mental health institution where a social worker decides to offer the patients a drama experience, can be interpreted with light and shade, displaying dysfunctional behaviour from clients and outsiders, and potentially delicate moments as characters reveal their deeply troubled backgrounds.
Director Sandra Hines glosses over these to present a rip roaring farce with sharp comic timing that clearly reveals Nowra’s comedic dexterity. The audience loved it. Individual character movement was rich and detailed, including: Ruth’s desperately fussy numbering of paces across the acting space; the lovelorn Cherry stuffing sandwiches in Lewis’ face at every opportunity; Roy, the insensitive but soulful opera buff who delivered his lines a precisely chosen shade too loud for normality; the fraught and repressed Henry who finally blossoms; the wild-eyed pyromaniac Doug; and the drug addled, dubiously qualified pianist Zac.
The more subtle natural performances of the director Lewis, his girlfriend Lucy, sophisticated Julie, morally bankrupt activist Nick, and social worker Justine provided a well balanced contrast to the quirky patients, and their startled and frustrated reactions to the often bizarre behaviour worked in tandem to reap the laughs which came frequently throughout the play.
With uniformly excellent performances, a set that suggested a larger space than they had, and creatively shonky “opera” costumes, it is a highly successful production and heaps of fun.