Posts Tagged ‘sandra bates




The Noosa Long Weekend Festival

The J Theatre

18th & 19th June 2013


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward



Roland Makepeace (Mark Lee) knows what makes people happy. Why wouldn’t he? He’s an eminent professor of psychology who has devoted his life to scientifically investigating human well-being. But his theories are sorely tested when his wife Hanna (Anne Tenney) meets an old suitor Sam (Peter Kowitz) and his daughter Zelda (Erica Lovell) threatens to go right off the rails. This sharply observed comedy suggests that theory can sometimes fall well short of reality and that finding happiness is easier said than done.


It’s very funny – you’ll laugh and laugh – but you’ll also empathise with the characters. What I love is the irony of this professor of happiness surrounded by unhappiness when he’s done everything right. 
Only David can bring us this kind of irony.



The Queensland Premiere of David Williamson’s new comedy, Happiness, happened without the playwright and his wife, Kristen in attendance, which was strange, making the night less of an occasion than it might have been with them there. It’s a pity that an overseas trip clashed with The Noosa Long Weekend Festival. It’s always such a pleasure to see them.


Happiness hasn’t been received well down south and that leads me to tell you that, unlike in previous years, the play has had its Australian premiere in Sydney, at Ensemble Theatre’s home in Kirribilli. That may not be widely known. “How lucky we are to be the first to see David’s work” was among several comments heard after the show. I didn’t correct the guy…


I guess I’m not a big fan of Ensemble Theatre, however; you know I’m a huge fan of David’s, and I usually enjoy his plays. And there it is. I love the writing of this one too – it’s sharp, funny, and typically Williamson, which you either love or you hate – it’s the treatment that baffles me. And by baffled I mean I don’t understand how Ensemble Theatre and Artistic Director Sandra Bates, can do exactly the same thing with great new material year after year.


The text is totally current; it’s sharp, witty, funny, and overflowing with wonderful social commentary and close observations about life and love and complicated relationships. Sure, we’ve heard a lot of it before, but I love the way Williamson offers a fresh take on tired old gender and political issues. The characters are complex and yet we see one layer only of each. Except for Mark Lee, who plays Roland, and to a certain extent Anne Tenney, who plays his wife. The character seems to be written for him, such is his authenticity in the role. I would like to say the same of the rest of the cast but when I see these performances, I feel like shouting out “STOP ACTING! And Chill!”, which is something I find myself saying to student actors when I perceive them to be trying too hard.


Despite my misgivings, the opening night audience LOVED the new Williamson, as they always do. In fact, Stephen and I were sitting behind a party of people who were almost overcome with emotion, who gushed and would like to have seen it again today.


Tonight is the final performance by Ensemble Theatre of David Williamson’s Happiness as part of the Noosa Long Weekend program. If you love David’s work, you must see it somewhere, sometime.



Rhinestone Rex and Miss Monica

Gardens Theatre

Rhinestone Rex and Miss Monica

Ensemble Theatre

Gardens Theatre

4th September to 6th September 2012

Reviewed by Meredith McLean

In no way does the small cast mean this is a small show. There are big personalities encapsulated in these small moments, and David Williamson is certainly not stingy with these hilarious moments. He has a flair for binary plots. Binary as in the old saying “opposites attract”. Whether or not it’s true it certainly takes effect in Rhinestone Rex and Miss Monica. The play even goes so far to have its characters, Gary and Monica, mock this age old saying in heated conversation.

You don’t need to be studying a music degree to enjoy this show. Gardens Theatre’s in-house stereos amp the tunes up regardless of whether you recognise them or not. In fact, it’s a bit of a brief music lesson from time to time with the witty banter of this misfit couple.

I find the best kind of romance is the unconventional kind. The kind of love you find in places you weren’t looking, or even better; the kind of love that comes and finds you. Chases you, no matter how many times you stamp your feet and refuse. “NO!” You might yell out. But love comes a-runnin’ anyway. That’s what it’s like between Gary and Monica. Despite everything Gary, as his radio persona Rhinestone Rex, says. No matter what Monica does, they end up in the same lounge room bickering away.

All the credit can’t go to David Williamson though. He may have penned the witty banter between the two but in this production it is Alexandra Fowler and Glenn Hazeldine who bring them to the stage. Glenn Hazeldine has already performed this role, opposite Georgie Parker, in the original Ensemble production in Sydney. The role fits him like the cowboy hat that sits perfectly on his head. Meanwhile, Alexandra Fowler I have already seen bring Williamson’s creations to life in other plays like Let The Sunshine.

My only grievance with this performance is the ending. I suppose a balance between the real and unreal is my biggest gripe. Maybe I’m too cynical but I felt this production could’ve been concluded ten minutes earlier. A particular scene just feels so apt in describing the human condition. When Monica and Gary’s hands almost touch just as the lights drop. Letting us witness the moments, the unfinished ones, that’s what really represents life for me. Something unfinished, unresolved and understated.

Wrapping things up in a perfect package is to me like telling a bedtime story. The prince finds the princess, the dragon is slain and they all live happily in the kingdom. But life, and especially love, is nothing of the sort. Monica’s dragons will still haunt her, or in the long run she will learn to live with them. Rhinestone Rex or truthfully Gary, the tradesman, will never be the ultimate prince, but he will be the man who cares. Their kingdom may not be glamourous but it will be theirs with all its imperfections. That’s how I like to think of it, but the conclusion to this production just doesn’t measure up to this ideal. But like I said, I’m a cynic who’s never quite satisfied.

Just like this review Rhinestone Rex and Miss Monica touches upon sad moments and humourous ones. The mockery between Gary and Monica is both punctual and surprising. Delivered perfectly by Hazeldine and Fowler the theatre is filled with laughter from everyone seated. Whether Monica is hitting Rex where it hurts or Rex is counteracting Monica with his cheekiness the serious and the jovial interact wonderfully. They feel well rounded, funny, but real.

Once again Australian theatre has stepped up to meet the demands. I found myself poised on the edge of my seat during the tension filled moments and flung back laughing during the comical. If you believe in love, if you believe in music or if you believe in something a little in between then Rhinestone Rex and Miss Monica is the show you can’t miss.

Rhinestone Rex and Miss Monica continues on to Nambour Civic Centre this Saturday 8th September at 7:30pm and then to venues across Australia. Check the tour schedule for details.

Rhinestone Rex and Miss Monica