Let the Sunshine

Let the Sunshine

Let The Sunshine

Gardens Theatre

15th – 16th June 2012

Reviewed by Meredith McLean

Since moving to Brisbane I’ve been mostly quiet about my coastie heritage;

Coastie [Coh-stee] noun A person who originates from the Sunshine Coast. Often mistaken for a bogan.

…but I couldn’t help but be a little proud as I laughed at David Williamson’s jabs at the coast. Let The Sunshine is Williamson’s hilarious, satirical play is about two polar opposite couples struggling with their children who have inevitably fallen in love. It’s been described as part Romeo & Juliet, part Meet the Parents. It had me laughing the minute the stage had lit up.

Rick’s parents are a left wing pair played by Toni Scanlan and Dennis Coard. They go by Toby and Ros; Toby’s specialty being documentaries raging against the southeast Queensland coastlines being ruined by development. Emma’s parents on the other hand are Ron and Natasha. Natasha spends her days in gym pants’ getting facials and Ron is a development manager responsible for half the high rises on the Sunshine Coast. The two couples struggle to maintain a healthy state as “frenemies”.

This arrangement seems permanent until Rick and Emma meet at a birthday gathering gone wrong. It’s a case of opposites attract and the rest goes like clockwork from there. The whole concept is a hilarious send-up of some stereotypes that I have to admit isn’t too far off. What stirred in me the most though were the little jabs at Sunshine Coast I couldn’t deny were absolutely true. Noosa and its six-dollar coffees as well as the Sunshine Coast’s club scene or lack there of it had the crowd snickering. But it was the hilarious comments coming out the parents’ stereotypes that have the audience roaring.

The characters of Emma and Rick our star-crossed lovers as it were come off as a little flat. However I find this is no fault of the actors Ryan Hayward and Hannah Norris who do everything they can to make the characters live through the stage. The two-dimensional nature of their characters fall upon Williamson’s shoulders I feel. They are very carved out concepts. Emma, a young lawyer who thinks she wants to achieve but is more or less making the effort for her parents’ approval. Rick, the thirty something failing musician still running on the fuel of his mother and father’s encouragement. They are both truisms of Williamson’s creation.  The platitudes of their psyches, flaws and feelings are nothing new I have come across. But there is hope because we are forgetting this is a satirical comedy. There just isn’t time to develop some deep meaningful pair of lovers before the punch lines hits us. I did take note though of Hannah Norris’s character arc in her role as Emma and how it changes as the play progresses. In a way, character development has been sacrificed for the greater good.

The greater good in question is fantastic. It is projected across the stage and echoed back by the laughter of the audience. The banter of Natasha and Ron, played by Ally Fowler and Peter Phelps respectively, is witty and mocking of many households on the Coast. I must admit I couldn’t help but see a little bit of my own parents in them and found the whole situation even funnier.

Let the Sunshine

The cast as a collective reflects familiar faces. The baby boomer counterparts of the cast have all made a name for themselves through Australian television and overseas. Ryan Hayward and Hannah Norris, our example of opposites attract, have both extensively contributed to theatre down south and internationally.

Having had an interview with Hannah Norris earlier, there were hints that a social message also underlies the jokes in Let The Sunshine. I had been expecting something very singular and straightforward but found flourishes of individual messages are given to the audience behind the sly face of comedy. This isn’t a show parading feminism but it does take note of women in the working environment. It can’t be called a claim for peace but there are references to the summer of love and what that dream means today. This is no meeting for the Greens going on but there are undertones of urbanization and what it means for the Queensland coastlines. You have been warned. This is a satirical comedy and in being such a concept messages are handed to us through the crack of a joke.

It’s not on everyone’s mind I know but I have to say I sighed over the fluidness of the scene changes. For me I get a little shiver of satisfaction when a play runs well. It is never emphasized enough how much a production loses when you notice the stage hands or see the actors bumbling to find their next position. The smooth cog-like manner of Let The Sunshine is a credit to director Denis Moore. Each actor stepping purposely into the shadow then reappearing through another spotlight to signify a transition of scenes without so much as a hiccup between lines gives me goose bumps to watch. Under Moore’s stage direction it’s a clear a working family unit has grown during the rehearsal of this production.

Let The Sunshine is a charming comedy that beguiles the audience with some hilarious actors as well as some cheeky observations. The visuals and the dialogue leave the audience chuckling in their seats. Many times even clapping mid-scene. I hope you were able to catch it during this brief Brisbane visit.

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