Theatre | Life, love and laughter | Ken Longworth

TOUCHING: Maria Bardarkos and Michael Smythe, as Don and Edie in Maitland Repertory's production, Kiss Me Like You Mean It.
TOUCHING: Maria Bardarkos and Michael Smythe, as Don and Edie in Maitland Repertory's production, Kiss Me Like You Mean It.

THE concept of English playwright Chris Chibnall’s romantic comedy Kiss Me Like You Mean It, which looks at the experiences of two very different couples, arose from his own involvement with an attractive woman. Chibnall was at the start of a relationship and hoping it would continue when he wrote the play in 2000. His hopes were realised when he married the girl who had inspired the work two years later.

Kiss Me Like You Mean It is about love – the beginning of a love and the end of a love. It is also about making the most of every opportunity. And, while it deals with what could be a dark theme, the play is topical, full of humour and touchingly optimistic.

Maitland Repertory Theatre is staging the play at its venue for five performances between March 16 and 24 as a special event to give audiences the chance to see a comedy that is increasingly wowing watchers around the world.

The first of the two couples the audience sees are Tony and Ruth, two people in their 20s who meet when they head into a garden at 3am to get away from a drunken party they attended with partners. While they get to know each other in the garden, their attention is drawn to the loud and lively comments coming from an adjoining house where a man and woman are clearly having their own celebration. This pair, Don and Edie, have been married for 50 years, but they are also holding the party event to note an unexpected event that is about to affect their relationship. Circumstances lead the two couples to eventually get together.

Kiss Me Like You Mean It was recommended to Maitland Repertory by its director, Brendon Harris, who read the play while doing the Advanced Diploma in Acting course at TAFE NSW Newcastle in 2015. Harris was attracted to the play after delivering, as a training exercise, a monologue in which Tony voices his feelings for Ruth when their meeting appears to be nearing its end.

The Maitland production has Zac Smith and Hope Maguire as Tony and Ruth and Michael Smythe and Maria Bardakos as Don and Edie.

Brendon Harris says the play has much humour, but there is also a lot of depth.

Michael Smythe notes that being Don’s age he has empathy for him because of a health-related issue he finds himself facing. And he’s impressed by Chris Chibnall’s writing style.  

Hope Maguire sees her character, Ruth, as being abrasive, but with another side to her becoming apparent.

Kiss Me Like You Mean It has 8pm Friday and Saturday shows between March 16 and 24, and a 2pm matinee on Sunday, March 18.

Tickets: $17; bookings 4931 2800,


A NEW Australian stage adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s novel Alice in Wonderland that won rave reviews when it premiered at the Sydney Festival in January, is touring in March to  Melbourne and five regional venues, including Wyong Art House on Friday, March 2, with stagings of the hour-long family play at 10am and 6pm. Tickets: $18.75 to $25; 4335 1485,

Darwin-based writer Mary Anne Butler has made Alice a 13-year-old indigenous girl who wants to show her skills as an Australian Rules player, but is sent away by the coach and boy players. 

The dejected Alice, who is forced by her parents to wear elegant clothes, has her blue hair ribbon stolen by a White Rabbit she encounters, which is initially seen as a white doll, and follows him in an attempt to retrieve it down a slippery dip that takes her to the underground Wonderland.

And there she encounters a host of colourful characters.

The show, which is set in and around a picturesque children’s playground, has Dubs Yunupingu, who initially trained as a dancer, as Alice, with three other actors – Alex Packard, Ebony Vagulans, and Drew Wilson – in multiple roles. 

And the show includes puppetry and dancing, with Alice seen at one point as a small doll and, later, as a huge figure, sitting on a high spot with giant stockinged legs reaching to the floor. 

The theatrical magic also includes sheets turning into oceans and shapes on sticks into floating butterflies.