Posts Tagged ‘darren gilshenan




Queensland Theatre & Black Swan Theatre Company

QPAC Playhouse

November 12 – December 4 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward


Queensland Theatre’s final production for the year is a co-pro with WA’s Black Swan Theatre Company, and Director Kate Cherry’s last for the company before she takes up the reins at NIDA. This delightfully fresh reimagining of Moliere’s Tartuffe has Black Swan stamped all over it, largely due to its clean, white, luxe, functional design by Richard Roberts. I love it. The orange accents not so much. Still, we could be in Sydney, or Noosa; it’s elegant, understated and stylishly lit (David Murray). The full revolve allows for seamless transitions and all the anticipated hiding-and-overhearing shenanigans of traditional farce, because as Roberts notes, a set designed for the best actors and directors should be “Like an adventure playground that allows kids to play imaginatively”. This is evident from the outset, with a raucous party appearing to be taking place. The music evolves as the set revolves (and the characters regress, misbehaving in all the best ways while the father is away), from an unsurprising baroque lilt to a surprisingly upbeat, very contemporary shake & stir style orchestration. And suddenly it dawns on us that this is simply the good, fun, wealthy life without apparent consequences, which we all (still) want to be living! And so the tone is set for a riotous take on this French classic.


A wonderfully funny scene has the maid, Dorine (Emily Weir) and the bride-to-be, Mariane (Tessa Lind), on the second floor balcony in a frenzied discussion about her limited options as the daughter of the house. The hysterical young girl, having been promised by her father to the titular character, a conceited con man, performs a little miracle of props mastery, both impressive and hilarious, taking urgent drags on a cigarette, chugging desperately from a champagne bottle and inhaling necessarily, her Ventolin, though not necessarily in that order. This is a fabulous scene Cherry has stitched up for Lind because Moliere gives her little else to do in the role except fawn over her lover, Valere (James Sweeney, the smartly dressed playboy/pool boy/Noosa Main Beach boy of the story, and somehow looking not a little unlike Rob Mills here. Not a bad thing…), and protest loudly to her father, Orgon (an infuriatingly upright Steven Turner in a perfectly pitched performance), re the match he’s made for her with the awful Tartuffe in his awful wig.


Tartuffe (Darren Gilshenan) is the easily recognisable, much lauded, and laughable spiritual guru, ghastly in every sense, sleazy and sneaky and suddenly the master of the house through his devious machinations and double standards. Orgon, incredulously, falls for his every word and allows him to have his way…almost. A short, rather silly but successful scene, in which Orgon’s wife (Alison van Reeken) is as sexy as Tartuffe is shallow, slimy and simpering, has Orgon hiding under a table at her insistence, until he deems the monster has gone far enough in the seduction of his wife to convince the poor, stupid man – FINALLY – that everything the family has told him is true, catching Tartuffe with his pants down.


Jenny Davis delivers an accomplished performance as the intolerant matriarch, Madame Pernelle, and Alex Williams takes the opportunity to claim the spotlight on more than one occasion as Damis (offering our second actors’ lesson for the evening in dealing with difficult props, as he rescues a runaway green apple and then has to use it until the scene’s end without creating further distraction. Hugh Parker, one of our faves, is a gallant-arrogant Cleante, perfectly balancing the scrutiny, wit and wisdom of this character with an appropriately unapologetic air of superiority. There’s a hint of Bottom the Weaver, as he instructs his players and whether a conscious choice or not, it works to endear us to him. The fans tend to feel endeared already towards him and we can look forward to seeing more from Parker in QT’s 2017 season.


But it’s the new QUT Fine Arts grad, Emily Weir, who neatly and boldly steals the show. Her comedy is so bold and witty, and precise, and for one so new to the table, she plays every hand like a seasoned pro, such a pleasure to watch. So much of her character comes through her gesture and facial expression, as the other characters interact around her, unwittingly perhaps making her the centre of their actions. She employs her full vocal range and incorporates a fantastically funny and irritating Australian nasal twang, playing with the language to extract the vivid colour of the piece and placing it smack bang in contemporary Australian money-not-necessarily-indicating-style suburbia.


Justin Fleming’s astute adaptation is the other star of the show, making the 17th Century text brand new again, retaining the original structure and adding without shame or apology, our favourite Australian colloquialisms. Fleming also delivers a more conclusive and satisfying end than the original, during which Parker shines again, in the fitting guise of a reporter for the ABC.

Kate Cherry’s cheeky, savvy, slick Tartuffe demonstrates the power of redressing the classics in a truly contemporary way, delivering timeless messages wrapped in timeless style.


Mother & Son


Mother & Son

QTC, Joint Ventures, Lascorp Entertainment & Fractured Limb Production     

QPAC Playhouse

February 21 – March 15 2015


 Reviewed by Xanthe Coward




Geoffrey Atherden penned the first episodes of Mother & Son in 1984 creating an instant classic. Now live on stage, 30 years later he has done it again. From the creator of the hit TV series comes a brand new stage comedy featuring everyone’s favourite forgetful mum in this trip down loss-of-memory lane!


Long-suffering second son Arthur, who has sacrificed so much to care for his mother Maggie, would just like a few weeks’ holiday with his new flame Anita. His philandering dentist brother Robert is no help, and manipulative Maggie is out to sabotage Arthur’s chances.


Vague but vicious and more arsenic than old lace, Maggie would have Arthur tied to her apron strings for life, if she could just remember where she put the apron …

“What do you do when someone you love is driving you up the wall?” Geoffrey Atherden


I was eight years old in Year 3 when Geoffrey Atherden’s classic comedy series, Mother & Son, first aired on Australian television. When I spoke with him on opening night, Atherden said he was delighted with the response from the Brisbane audience. With updates to include technological advancements and respite care options; Atherden’s new story serves a new set of characters. New as in same same but different.


Mother & Son live on stage is economically and comically crafted, slickly designed, and delivered by a company who is confident in its appeal to the masses. It doesn’t do to be too picky. We have to remember; there are generations for whom this is NEW. THAT’S RIGHT. THERE ARE KIDS OUT THERE WHO HAVEN’T SEEN THE RE-RUNS! And for those of us who have, there are some lovely little touches to this production. (The pre-filmed Skype sessions are GOLD!). QTC Artistic Director, Wesley Enoch, made a really important point on opening night, reminding us, “It’s not just aping a character from TV, it’s creating a new character.”



The casting is spot on, with Noeline Brown as unlike Ruth Cracknell as she can be, in the role of the forgetful, overbearing elderly mother, Maggie Beare. She is all the right frailty and coarseness (at times she is surprisingly spritely!), and ultimately adorable, completely hopeless, winning our sympathy in the end. She throws excruciatingly caustic and careless comments in amongst gentler, more classic attempts at manipulation, which we can’t help but recognise because, sadly, WE’VE ALL BEEN THERE.


If we haven’t had to care for elderly parents and/or make decisions about their living arrangements, we know that one day we’ll need to.


Brown is a treasure, reminding us of every lovely difficult-to-get-along-with older lady in our lives.


Darren Gilshenan is as insecure an Arthur as we would ever want to see on stage. I feel helpless, and irritated, and sorry for him. The odds are stacked against him but he doesn’t help himself so risks becoming an altogether unlikeable character. Fortunately, Gilshenan avoids the paper cut out version of the poor guy with a lovely mix of stubborn determination, sad resignation and genuine love for his mother. Rob Carlton, as the favourite son, Robbie – a selfish, philandering dentist no less – is an absolute scream and risks going completely OTT. He narrowly avoids doing so by clearly making real choices on stage that are as affecting as they are idiotic (and catastrophic!). Nicki Wendt brings Robbie’s wife, Liz, to glorious, glamorous, ferocious life at a whole new level of delicious snobbery. She’s every Real Housewife of Melbourne rolled into one. A superb performance.


As Arthur’s love interest, Anita, Rachael Beck’s effervescent energy brings much-needed warmth and lashings of kindness to the proceedings. She’s the smiley, bouncy, chatty friend you wish could come to every family dinner purely for mediation purposes. An interesting device, her every entrance comes with a new hot health tip for Maggie. It could get old but Beck’s delivery is so real that I see heads nodding to agree with her: Yes, yes that’s right! Vitamin B pills and crosswords are good for the brain!


I was more deeply affected than I had expected to be by the final dialogue, the most sensitive segment of the writing, which suddenly gave a much clearer meaning to everything we’d seen before. Nothing is glossed over as such, but for the sake of brevity and a rolling, easy pace, a multitude of “elderly” and “parenting” issues are dealt with in comedic shorthand. At first it feels as if some of the issues are dealt with at surface level only, but there is occasion to pause and in the end, in poignant The Notebook style, the message is abundantly clear; in the end we must just let ourselves love.


Mother & Son is probably the darkest light fluffy comedy you’ll see all year, regardless of age or family history, and long after the laughter fades it will have you thinking seriously about a few things. Atherden’s updated text breathes new life into an Australian classic that deals, as every decent comedy does, with the most difficult aspects of life. It’s a fine production, and won’t disappoint. You should go. And then go visit whichever elderly relative or neighbour you’ve been meaning to see…