Latest theatre reviews: Table Manners; The Snow Queen

Theatre Reviews

Table Manners

Maureen O’Brien, at The Dungeon, Adamstown Uniting Church

Ends Sunday

THE interactions in Table Manners between half-a-dozen people as they regularly cross paths at a beachside restaurant and piano bar are amusing, but at times also moving and with a few surprises.

Maureen O’Brien’s comedy, which has the characters revealing their emotions in the 10 songs she has included, is down-to-earth and enjoyable in its depiction of relationships, with the intimate theatre space in the Dungeon having the interior of the restaurant on the stage, and the outdoor eating area on the floor below.

The performers grab and hold watchers’ attentions.

Marise Wilson’s solo Nothing Like a Husband, for example, makes clear the concern of wife, Jane, about life with hubby Cyril (Harold Von Finster) now that he’s retired, with the song coming after the long-married pair bicker over breakfast about what the future holds for them.

Grant Bailey’s greedy property developer Flick is hissable in One of These Days as he voices his ambition to make millions, no matter what it involves. A sneering comment he later makes when another patron tells him bluntly no one in the town likes him, that “Like isn’t bankable”, has watchers hoping for his comeuppance.

Maureen O’Brien also looks at serious issues in unusual ways. The Alzheimer’s Tango, sung with the backing of the other cast members by Arthur (David Benge), an old man who is first seen arriving for breakfast in pyjamas, is an engaging look at the problems people suffering from that illness face.

All the characters are well developed. Jasmine (Karen Hall), the woman managing the restaurant clearly isn’t the owner but shows her determination to make customers happy as she sings Saturday Morning while setting up the tables in the opening scene. And Sydney (Cherie McKinnon), a young newcomer with relationship issues, questions her place in the world in Who Am I?. 

Maureen O’Brien and Peter Farrell are the musicians at the piano bar, with O’Brien leading the ensemble in some numbers.

The revelations keep coming in the second half, with characters sitting outdoors unaware of things that affect them happening inside the restaurant. The surprises underline the effectiveness of Matthew Clark’s set. 

The Snow Queen

DAPA, at DAPA Theatre, Hamilton

Ends Saturday

THE opening of Pamela Whalan’s contemporary re-telling of Hans Andersen’s fairy tale has the glitteringly white and unsmiling title character, played by Sienna Brown, singing I Hate All Fun.  So it’s not surprising that when her three downtrodden servants, the Uglys (Renee Thomas, Oliver Pink, Stephanie McDonald), hear young boy Jason (Samuel Parker) singing with his mates It’s Fun to Play Footy as they wait on Broadmeadow Station that they kidnap him as a page for the queen.

This is a fun show for kids and adults alike, with the young cast members as impressive as the adults as a rescue plan is put into effect.

The fairy tale has the kidnapped boy put under a spell which will become permanent if he’s not rescued within three days. This version has a rescue team drawn from his male and female school friends and a sister and led by the practical mother of two of the girls, Mrs Smith (Jennifer Dixon), who is revealed to be a government magic-spell breaker, trying to find and save him.

There are amusing references to consulting the Stockton Fairy about the rescue effort, followed by very funny scenes that show the rescuers obtaining the needed objects from the Waratah Witch (Renee Thomas), the Bar Beach Baron (Oliver Pink), and the Swansea Bridge Troll (Chelsea Boudan), with the latter unhappy because she gets blamed for bridge problems.

Thomas and Pink do excellent work in their double roles. They wear fairy tale capes and masks as the Uglys, and do a sprightly tap dance as the trio lament their unhappy lives at the beck and call of the Snow Queen. Then Thomas becomes, as the witch, a suburban woman who raises smiles in her sung lament I Cannot Cook. Pink, in turn, is seen as a dashing beachgoer, carrying a colourful towel.

There is not a weak performance in the show, with the audience siding with the captive Jason as he lamentingly sings I want to go home, affectionately laughing as the Snow Queen’s minions, played by young actors Alana Papanicolou, Isabella Park, Liam Robertson and Luca Wellham, unsmilingly obey the Queen’s orders, and enjoying the energy of the child rescue team (Jarrod Zieleman, Julian Solomou, Lilli Brown, Carissa Herd, Indiana Ryan).

Musical director Peter Cummings supplies lively keyboard accompaniment to the songs with lyrics by Whalan and music by Frank Murphy, and the choreography by Jackie Brock (who was one of the Uglys in the original 2007 production) is spirited.   

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