Presented by St Judes Players
Reviewed 4 April 2019
This tight four hander is classic St Jude’s; witty and doesn’t take itself too seriously but also thought provoking. In the company’s 70th year, the Ian Rigney directed I’ll Be Back Before Midnight is an enjoyable show that displays how a local suburban theatre company can entertain and thrive.
While working on his dissertation into stone-age weapons, Greg (Leighton Vogt) invites his wife Jan (Carolina Kaye) to join him on a farm where he is conducting his research, although she is recently discharged from a mental health hospital. Although a pleasant place, the rundown country cottage is far from town and its extraordinary owner George (Timothy Cousins) tells alarming stories of skulduggery and murder within the dwelling. Finding their relationship strained and in a difficult environment, Jan and Greg make the effort to reconnect, or so Jan thinks until her overbearing sister-in-law Laura Sanderson (Miriam Keane) arrives, significantly deteriorating Jan’s mental health. Highly anxious and beleaguered Jan can’t figure out if the conversations held by other members of the household are simply fantasies of a stress oppressed mind or a conspiracy to kill her.
The show’s ominous pretence points toward a straightforward classic thriller: but an archetypal production this is not. With the name and set encouraging an atmosphere rich with foreboding, the arrival of the first few jokes are somewhat a surprise. The black humour of the script is regular and rich, delivered in such a way that is strangely pleasurable, encouraging the audience to revel in the macabre. Although it is difficult not to smile at the steady stream of well delivered comical lines, it occurs to the audience the further into the story we go the less of a comedy it appears.
This puzzling development is surprisingly entertaining. The audience takes to the shift and its ever serious overtones with ease but not so much that they don’t continue to enjoy the comedy that is ever present throughout the show.
Although praise can be placed on the playwright for his witty script it is due to the performances that make this show work. Vogt avoids the bumbling eccentric caricature often associated to academia and delivers a steady yet embattled man struggling to deal with a dominating sister and an emotionally unstable wife. Keane looks at ease with the character of Laura. Comfortable in her powerful position she at no point looks rattled or challenged by the events around her. Although direct she seems to give Laura a flair that stands apart from the rest of the cast.
Cousins on the other hand has not so much a flair as an all-encompassing personality that owns the space during his often hilariously maddening stories. Very popular with the crowd, his capacity to flick quickly from one emotional place to another is respectable. The very challenging task of Jan fell into the hands of Kaye and her performance is palpable. Her different states of mind are clear, separate and profoundly believable with her decent into a shattered person struggling to hold onto reality enthralling to witness. Credit to Rigney for assembling a reliable and skilled cast.
Reviewed by Simon Lancione
Venue: St Judes Hall
Season: April 4th-6th, 11th-13th
Tickets: $18 – $22
Bookings: stjudesplayers.asn.au. Click on ‘book tickets’ or phone 0446 262 628 (9-5pm weekdays)