THEATRE: Bride on and off stage

FUN AND GAMES: Janet Gillam, Alison Cox, Natalie Burg, Amy Edwards and Allison Vangaal are among the cast of  the hit play, Secret Bridesmaids’ Business.  Picture: Dean Osland
FUN AND GAMES: Janet Gillam, Alison Cox, Natalie Burg, Amy Edwards and Allison Vangaal are among the cast of the hit play, Secret Bridesmaids’ Business. Picture: Dean Osland

ALISON Cox is playing a bride-to-be on the eve of her wedding in Secret Bridesmaids' Business.

She is also planning her own wedding next year.

The link startled some people who know the play.

How could she appear in it, given that her own wedding was coming up, they asked?

Secret Bridesmaids' Business, which begins a Theatre on Brunker season at Adamstown on March 1, is a comedy that looks at the way many brides focus on their wedding day and give little consideration to the relationship with their husbands in the years that will follow.

Meg Bacon, the 33-year-old woman about to wed, has had romantic ideas about the nature of her wedding since childhood.

And with her biological clock ticking, she knows she has only a limited time to have children.

The play, by Newcastle-raised writer Elizabeth Coleman, is set in a four-star hotel suite on the wedding eve and morning.

Meg, her mother Colleen, matron-of-honour Angela and bridesmaid Lucy, are having a "girls' night" while completing preparations for the big event.

When the attendants are alone, Lucy tells Angela she has heard that groom James has been playing around with another woman.

Unwed Lucy thinks they should tell Meg but long-married Angela doesn't want to spoil things for their friend. James and another friend of Meg's, Naomi, eventually become involved in the hide-and-seek fun and games.

Janet Gillam plays Colleen, with Natalie Burg as Angela, Allison Van Gaal as Lucy, Amy Edwards as Naomi and Phil McGrath as James. Isobel Denholm directs.

Edwards was married on December 22 last year and only read the play after the wedding.

She and Cox have discussed weddings during rehearsal breaks.

Edwards was married in an outdoor ceremony at Shepherd's Hill Reserve, overlooking Newcastle and the ocean.

"Our wedding was the opposite to what Meg faces in the play," she said. "It was very relaxed.

"When I read the play I thought how harrowing it would be as a bride in that situation."

Cox said that, if anything, the play actually helped to settle her nerves.

"I'm sure my real day won't be as bad," she noted.

"Meg is up for the fairytale of a blissful marriage and life to follow."

She said many factors pushed potential brides to share this dream, including the Newcastle bridal fair she attended recently, which showed weddings were very much big industry.

Coleman based the play on her observations of, and involvement in, various friends' weddings.

The bride-to-be at one wedding spent the 18 months between betrothal and marriage talking of little but bridal-party attire.

The groom was reduced to a necessary accessory, with little involvement in the planning process.

When Coleman married in 2003, four years after Secret Bridesmaids Business premiered in Melbourne and became an Australia-wide box-office hit, followed by productions worldwide, her wedding was very different to that in the play.

She and her husband were married far from home in an ice-chapel near the Arctic Circle in northern Lapland.

Coleman has a lot of fun in the play with incidents such as the bride's mother worrying that ribbons to be tied on the ends of church pews are not long enough and the mother's concerns that the caterers haven't delivered enough main courses for vegetarian guests.

But Coleman uses the comedy to raise questions about the nature of weddings and the way thoughts of life together beyond the marriage can be pushed into the background.