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Thursday, July 25, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Best casts Bombshells to the power of six

The cast of Bombshells, from left, Amy Kowalczuk, Ella Buckley, Lainie Hart, Kate Harris, Alice Ferguson and Sally Taylor. Photo: Shelly Higgs

There’s something in the air this winter as local theatre companies place stress on virtuoso acting.

This is exactly what’s going on with Echo Theatre’s new production of Bombshells by Joanna Murray-Smith, coming up at The Q.

Originally written for just one actor, the musical theatre star Caroline O’Connor, but under the direction of Jordan Best, it’s been transformed into a tour de force for six talented female actors.

The play has been around for a while, with the Melbourne Theatre Company’s 2001 production transferring to London in 2004 and four of the monologues from Bombshells televised by the ABC in 2003.

“I’ve opted to do it with six actors,” Best says.

“I thought it seemed to be quite extraordinary watching one actor, like watching a magic trick, but somehow I didn’t want to show off what clever actors can do, I wanted audiences to get lost in the characters.

“Joanna Murray-Smith’s writing is so complex. I asked myself, how can she write six well-drawn and distinctly different voices with different speech patterns?”

But there’s something moving about six actors bringing their own life experience into those characters, who range from a 64-year-old widow to a high school student.

The original production featured compositions by Elena Kats-Chernin, but Jordan has engaged Andrew Hackwill to write music for the songs, and Leisa Keen is assisting with instrumentation.

Each character, she reports, exists in her own little world and it’s not a big blockbuster show, so doesn’t need a lot of space. 

All the characters have chairs, but in different settings, for instance the cabaret singer Zoe creates a different atmosphere. Each character references another character in the script.

There’s a mother, Meryl Davenport, played by Amy Kowalczuk, recently seen as Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire. Her monologue reflects what happens in a non-stop 24-hour day. Familiar to anyone who has had children, it shows the judgements you put on yourself, the endless need for a cup of coffee and the inability to drink it. In short, it’s a perfect snapshot of exhaustion.

Then there’s Tiggy Entwhistle, played by Kate Harris, whose husband has left her. She’s giving a talk to a cactus appreciation society so it’s funny and also a little bit sad, but it reveals the strength seen in all the characters.

Sally Taylor plays Mary O’Donnell, a young student at a Catholic high school who’s about to enter a talent show, but forced to improvise, with hilarious results. 

Ella Buckley plays Theresa McTerry, a disillusioned bride getting ready for the wedding and fantasising about what she hasn’t done, another funny-but-sad role. 

Alice Ferguson plays 64-year-old Winsome Webster, a widow entering a new phase of life who starts reading for a young art school student.

Finally, there’s Zoe Struthers, played by Lainie Hart. She’s an American cabaret singer – the role was a showstopper for O’Connor and is likely to be the same for Hart.

Hers is a monologue where she talks about all the relationships in her life but ending on a triumphal with the conclusion that you don’t have to tie your life to men.

Bombshells. At The Q, Queanbeyan, July 18-27.


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Helen Musa

Helen Musa

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