Christmas farce at REP – ‘listen to the music’

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DIRECTOR Walter Learning and set designer Andrew Kay have been having far too good a time preparing for REP’s traditional pre-Christmas farce, “Don’t Dress for Dinner” due to open at Theatre 3 tomorrow night.

Michelle Cooper, Robert de fries, Natalie Waldron, photo Helen Drum
Michelle Cooper, Robert de fries, Natalie Waldron, photo Helen Drum

Adapted by Robin Hawdon from the play by Marc Camoletti, who wrote “Boeing Boeing,” it’s one of those silly plots where husband Bernard (Peter Holland) is planning to entertain his fashionable Parisian mistress for the weekend until his wife and his best friend turn up unexpectedly. The friend has to pretend that the mistress belongs to him, the maid has to pretend to be the mistress – you get the idea.

Learning is a familiar face at REP since the 1960s when he studied at the ANU, after that becoming one of Canada’s most noted arts personalities, and explained that the odd stylistic mix in the set of barn, dairy and piggery combined with elegant antique furniture was intended to conjure up the idea of a trendy, converted French farmhouse.

When “CityNews” popped in on a run-through the other day, it was also clear that the actors were having fun, with Natalie Waldron, reprising her favourite role of cheeky servant and Rob de Fries pacing himself as the best friend, Robert, while waving a large 200 franc note around as he explains how the play is set just before the era of the Euro.

Yes, it is indeed pure pre-Christmas fare, Learning is happy to admit, “Something to take your mind off things.”

While he’s has directed all genres of theatre for REP—11 shows in all—including productions of Tennessee Williams’ “Summer and Smoke” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” farce is his metier, of which he says, “You just have to find the energy, listen to the music.”

He’ll return to Canada on Tuesday, then relax for a while deciding on several offers for productions there next year. And sure, he hopes to be back at REP in two years’ time, probably with another farce.

Don’t Dress for Dinner, Canberra REP at Theatre 3, November 20 December 5, preview tonight, Thurs, Nov 19) at 8pm, bookings to canberrarep.org.au or 6257 1950.

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Helen Musa
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