Every generation has their “Kath and Kim” and in the golden age of Australian radio, Ada and Elsie were the queens of comedy. For sixteen years, this daredevil duo broke the rules by proving women could be funny, raunchy and just as topical as the men. Not surprisingly, their comedy endures and is just as entertaining today.
Maureen Sherlock’s script lovingly recreates these darling 1940s personalities played in real life by Dorothy Foster (Ada) and Rita Pauncefort (Elsie). Foster wrote the Ada and Elsie scripts and in this play is nicely portrayed by Carole Yelland as a strong, modern woman of the times. The play’s author, Sherlock, takes on the role of Elsie superbly. She has the intonations, delivery and timing almost exact, complemented by strong acting away from the ‘studio microphones’. The duo bounce beautifully off each other, particularly as they revive actual Ada and Elsie scripts in mock radio broadcasts.
Less successful is Malcolm Hansford as Australian radio legend Jack Davey and a range of other characters. He has the voice of Davey down pat and on live foley he’s amusing to watch recreating the sound effects, but Hansford often struggles with remembering his lines. That said, Hansford almost steals the show with one of the funniest spoon percussion acts imaginable.
Ada & Elsie: Wacko-the-Diddle-oh! is a show within a show. We witness the formation of the comedy duo, their fight against being banned from radio, their strained relationship with Davey and, of course, the recreation of several episodes of the Ada and Elsie show.
It is unfortunate that Rob George’s direction is terribly uneven. While the background and behind-the-scenes action is historically interesting, it flips the action from comedy to drama and the pace slows right down. These scenes are played out in a limited space to one side of the huge stage, often causing any impact or interest to be lost in the cavernous space.
In contrast to this, the recreation of the live radio broadcasts takes centre stage and the comedy fills the space with its tight delivery, screamingly funny scripts, and better use of the stage.
Marie Walsh’s main set deserves some accolade, with a shadow cut-out of a big band filling much of the back of the stage, effectively adding to the thrill of the ‘live’ broadcasts.
Running at only one hour long, there’s enough source material to make it a quick 60 minutes and more than enough laughs to forgive the off-stage dramatics that went on behind the scenes of Ada and Elsie. If you’ve not heard this sensational comedy duo, get in quick before this extremely short season ends.
Reviewed Rod Lewis
Venue: Capri Theatre, 141 Goodwood Rd, Goodwood
Season: 18-22 February 2014
Duration: 1 hour
Tickets: $24.00 – $29.00
Bookings: Book through FringeTix online or phone 1300 621