Just the Ticket

Just the Ticket
Ensemble Theatre, Sydney. By Peter Quilter. Director: Sandra Bates. Lighting: Nicholas Higgins. Feb 11 – Mar 26.

The Ensemble’s long-term Artistic Director (now Co-Artistic Director) Sandra Bates has already introduced three of British playwright Peter Quilter’s plays to Australia. Now Quilter has given her the world premiere of his latest – this 90 minute one-woman monologue about Susan, a lonely, chatty North Country spinster, self-described as ‘an unaccompanied old biddy’, who takes a three-week budget holiday from London Heathrow to a low-budget Sydney backpackers’ hotel.


The vivacious Amanda Muggleton, padded out to look as frumpy as possible, gets the solo gig, much to the delight of the Ensemble’s loyal audience. Not content with her monologue, she chats directly to people in the front row, asks their names (‘Are you Australian, Richard?’), responds to their questions. When one lady asks her husband ‘what did she say?’, Muggleton reruns the past couple of minutes until the lady is up to date. It’s an hilarious sequence which rather puts some of the scripted comedy in the shade.

More ‘stand-up comedy’ than ‘drama’, Just the Ticket can’t help but evoke memories of Willy Russell’s brilliant Shirley Valentine, a one-character play once played with award-winning distinction by Muggleton. This is not in the same class. Whereas we got to know all about Shirley’s background, her unhappy marriage and her desperate need for change, here Susan’s past remains largely unrevealed, her haphazard Australian adventure reduced to dancing alone in the bar and flirting with its ‘ape-like’ barman.

But the irrepressible Muggleton grabs every chance, works the room, breaks the ‘fourth wall’ with ease. She gets zero help from the setting — measly white and black tabs with some minimal furniture and pot plants. There’s no Set Designer credit in the program.

Frank Hatherley

Photographs: Steve Lunam

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