“Happy Birthday, Wanda June,” written by Kurt Vonnegut, directed by Cate Clelland, Canberra REP at Theatre, until August 4. Reviewed BY LEN POWER
WALKING into the foyer of The Ralph Wilson Theatre and noting Ralph’s photo on the wall certainly brought back memories of rigorous arguments and red hot passion concerning all things theatre. Unfortunately, this production offered no lustre with poorly stage managed scene changes and a largely monotone delivery making it impossible for the playwright’s ideas to emerge.
Bridget Mackey’s intriguing idea about a “what if” meeting between Courtney Love and Lindy Chamberlain and what they might have shared offered a clear opportunity for examination of social attitudes towards people, particularly women, who have had the misfortune of being pilloried unfairly by media and mass hysteria. There is certainly an audience for such a fictional and iconic meeting.
Long scene changes coupled with an unvaried vocal delivery blunted the rhythm of the piece; suggesting it still needed rehearsal in order to discover where the play’s real focus lay. There were glimpses of the philosophic grounding of the work in some of barb barnett’s monologues. But these were soon lost in the clutter of changes to set pieces and blackouts used for actors to reposition themselves. This diminished rather than enhanced the play’s potential power.
The theatre might assist production companies further by applying stricter protocols for front of house management. It was distracting to hear people in the foyer laughing and talking and sparkling wine bottles popping while the actors were performing in the theatre.