Tag Archives: comedy

Review: ‘Two Weeks with the Queen’

29 Apr

Image courtesy of Roo theatre Company

If you’re planning on seeing Roo Theatre Company’s Two Weeks with the Queen, be sure to take with you two things: a sense of humour and a box of tissues.

Based on Morris Gleitzman’s 1990 children’s novel, Two Weeks with the Queen is told through the innocent eyes of 12-year-old Colin Mudford.

On a hot Australian Christmas Day, budding young scientist, Colin is upset about getting shoes instead of a microscope for Christmas, when his younger brother is rushed to hospital and later diagnosed with cancer.  Colin is sent to England to stay with his Aunt and Uncle and cousin Alistair, with whom he devises a plan to break into Buckingham Palace to convince the Queen to send her best doctor to Australia to help his brother Luke.  He later meets and befriends Ted, the only adult who isn’t afraid to say the word cancer.  With the help of colourful cousin Alistair and kind, Welshman Ted, Colin realises that the best doctors won’t help to cure Luke, but that having family around will make it a little easier.

Directed by Daniel Stefanovski, Two Weeks with the Queen is an uplifting story that deals with childhood cancer, HIV/AIDS, terminal illness and homosexuality.  However, the humour and childhood innocence helps to distract from these heavy issues, making a nice story that the whole family can appreciate.

Aaron Arvella as Colin is excellent.  His boyish energy and youthful curiosity make Colin an entertaining, likeable and relatable character.  Arvella’s strong performance leads the play and at times makes up for the poor acting by some of those in lesser roles.

Juran Jones is hilarious as the easily persuaded, overweight Alistair, who provides much of the comic relief.  His facial expressions and fidgeting were spot on and had the audience in stitches before he even opened his mouth. An unlikely ally to Colin, the strange character of Alistair was a definite highlight of the performance.

Other fine performances by Mahlah Hoffman as Aunty Iris, James Poole who played Ted and David Rienitis as Uncle Bob and Griff.

The performance as a whole was greatly let down by the multiple scene changes, which took up a great deal of time.  At times, the scene change took longer than the act, which interrupted the flow of the story.  This could have been overlooked had the sets been more impressive – it was obvious they were made during a working bee in somebody’s backyard.  Admittedly, the story is set in multiple places, however, this could have been overcome by one simple set, rather than attempt to cheaply recreate every scene.

Overall the performance was enjoyable and entertaining.  For an amateur theatre group, they managed to successfully portray the themes of love, loss and hope in this classic Australian story.

Review: ‘Midsummer (A Play with Songs)’

10 Apr

Cora Bissett and Matthew Pidgeon in ‘Midsummer (A Play with Songs)’

If you want humour, sex, alcohol, drugs, love and a bit of crime to top it off, look no further than Midsummer (A Play with Songs).

About a one-night stand between two people who really shouldn’t get together, and their weekend of adventure that ensues, Midsummer is a romantic comedy that will make you laugh, and at times, cringe at the hopeless mess of the lives of Helena and Bob.

Helena and Bob are, according to Cora Bissett who plays Helena, opposites with nothing in common besides being middle-aged, single and not knowing what they want with their lives.  Bob is a drop-out petty criminal and Helena is a career-minded divorce lawyer.

“They come from opposite ends of the spectrum and on paper they should never work,” says Bissett.

“But they’ve both reached stages in their life where they’re kind of in a real rut and they really don’t know how they’re going to go forward and the place that they’re in is not a happy one.  And they meet and something really works.  And so it is a very life-affirming story about finding hope and happiness in very unexpected places.”

And that it is.  Midsummer is guaranteed to leave you with that feel-good, uplifting feeling that romantic comedies do best.

A scene from ‘Midsummer (A Play with Songs)’.

However, this is not your average play.  With only two actors, Bissett, and co-star Matthew Pidgeon who plays Bob, the show is uniquely performed through a combination of acting, narration and talking to the audience.  This approach makes the audience feel a greater connection with Helena and Bob, as Bissett and Pidgeon talk through scenes, describing their characters’ feelings, providing background information and telling us what is about to happen before they switch back to acting and continue with the scene.

Not only do Bissett and Pidgeon play the two main characters, but they play all the minor characters too.   One minute Bissett is Helena, the next she becomes Bob’s gangster boss, or Bob’s son kicking round a football.  The ease with which both Bissett and Pidgeon change persona is impressive considering neither once leaves the stage.

“It’s just two of you on stage and it’s quite irreverent and it’s quite messy and you’re completely on the stage and there’s no kind of polite entrances and exits, everything happens on stage – you change on stage, you have sex on stage, you know, it’s all bared,” Bissett says of the challenges.

It takes a well-seasoned actor to convincingly play a man while still wearing a dress,   however, Bissett pulls it off expertly.

Although the set is Helena’s bedroom, the majority of the action takes place in other locations – a bar, a church, a park etc.  This sounds confusing, but with the narration from the actors, and the improvised use of space to pretend the bedroom is in fact a bondage club, for example, the audience is able to imagine the setting.

A scene from ‘Midsummer (A Play with Songs)’.

Music is used to help tell the story, however, the play is definitely not a musical.  Rather, an anti-musical, Midsummer features acoustic guitars and cutesy indie-type songs sung by the talented Bissett and Pidgeon, reinforcing the heartwarming, feel-good attitude.  All of a sudden, the two will grab their guitars and break out in song, which in a way adds to the comical side of the play.

The humour in Midsummer is one of its driving features.  It is blunt, satirical and at times crude – typically Scottish humour, which an Australian audience can much appreciate.  We are encouraged to laugh with the characters, at their most embarrassingly humiliating moments, as well as at the hopelessness of their situations.

“You’re going to look at the mess my life is in, but hahaha, isn’t it quite funny too? I think the humour is a little bit that, it’s kind of cheeky,” says Bissett.

Midsummer is funny, sad and romantic all in one.  For the young, middle-aged and young at heart, it has something for everyone.  We might not all be in our 30’s and facing a mid-life crisis, or still searching for our life partner, but we can all relate to that idea of change and the need to do something meaningful with our lives.  With outstanding performances by Scotland’s finest, Midsummer (A Play with Songs)is not one to miss.

The set of ‘Midsummer (A Play with Songs)’.

More Reviews:

Rom-com will melt hardest hearts

Midsummer (a play with songs)

Midsummer (a play with songs) – Arts Hub