How great Thursday nights were during the 70s and 80s with Channel 7 serving up weekly three hour doses of classic British comedy.
A lot of these were penned by the comedy writing team of John Mortimer and Brian Cooke (Father Dear Father, Man About The House, Robin’s Nest and George & Mildred to name but a few). Double entendres and one-liners were the keys to great comedy in those days and Mortimer and Cook were among the master key cutters.
Their stage play, Situation Comedy, is exactly that and perhaps somewhat autobiographical as it revolves around two writers of British television comedy. Arthur Grey (Frank Cwiertniak) and Charles Summerskill (Damon Hill) are under pressure from their ‘blood-sucking’ agent, Maurice (Nick Hargreaves), to come up with a new, sure-fire hit TV sitcom but they are suffering severe writer’s block.
A night of Arthur’s interminably boring slides and his homemade vegetable wine leads to the swapping of wives – the comfortable, home loving, great cook Doris (Chris Galipo) and the not-so-good cook but brilliant love-maker Beryl (Hayley Mitchell) – and a possible plot for a sitcom: but how to end it?
Robert Andrews knows this play well, having operated sound for a previous production of it for the Players, and it shows in his direction. He not only paces it fairly well but has designed the clever, clearly delineated combined-living-rooms set; which has been classily dressed by Beth Venning.
Playing the writers, Cwiertniak and Hill are hugely entertaining and each gives their characters a believable touch of realism. Cwiertniak is suitably dour and plodding, with a great London accent; while Hill plays the smarter of the two, playing against his usual typecast roles.
As good as these two actors are, Galipo and Mitchell manage to slightly outshine them and almost steal the show. As the chief cook and bottle washer who can’t speak of s-e-x let alone do it, Galipo is hilarious and her ‘drunk’ is one of the funniest and best this reviewer has seen. Mitchell gets better and better with each role she plays and as Beryl she manages to exude sexiness, dumbness and hilarity in equal, excellent amounts.
The supporting cast of Hargreaves and Merici Thompson (as local gossip, Miss Trotter) add to the fun, with Thompson being wonderfully annoying as every good gossip should be.
Tea Tree Players are known for their excellent hold on British comedy and this production only strengthens their reputation.
Reviewed by Brian Godfrey
Venue: Tea Tree Players Theatre, cnr Yatala Vale & Hancock Roads, Surrey Downs
Season: 2 – 12 April 2014
Duration: 2 hours including interval
Tickets: $13.00 – $15.00
Bookings: Tea Tree Players online or the theatre box office on 8289 5266 (Tues & Thurs, 10am-1pm)