‘A View from the Park’ is an outstanding panoply (isn’t that a fabulous word?) of short plays, written and directed by prolific Perth playwright and script-writing lecturer, Noel O’Neill. Noel’s full-length plays can vary from good to excellent, but his short plays have always been his strong point and these five are truly brilliant. There are a couple of light-hearted, bubbly laughs and three of the best short plays that I have seen in decades; two of which deserve nomination for some State Award for writing. The very different plays are presented by Maverick Theatre Productions and vary in length from 20 to 45 minutes. They can be seen upstairs at The Carlisle Hotel, which is situated at 174 Rutland Avenue in Carlisle – near the Mint Street station. The performances are in a pleasant intimate room with comfortable chairs in two rows, so everyone has a good view of the performance. The two and a half hour shows commence at 7.30 pm on Friday and Saturday evenings until 10th August. There are matinees at 2.30 pm on both Saturdays (3rd, 10th) and Sundays (4th, 11th).
The Scene: a park bench in Australia.
The Set: a 30 cms high dais with a three-seater white park bench. Behind is a wall of black drapes. This simple set was free from distraction and allowed the discourse to reign supreme. The simple but effective lighting and sound was designed and operated by John Spurling.
‘Connie and Clyde’ – 20 minutes
Dressed in shirt and bowtie, Clyde (Rex Gray) and hippy Connie (Sue Murray) with blonde dreadlocks have been sharing emails for months. At last they meet. Like most friendship seekers, their descriptions of themselves have not been quite as honest as they should have been. With the popularity of Tinder increasing rapidly, this is a very funny story that many will see as an everyday occurrence. Rex and Sue were wonderful together as the strangely matched couple. Delightful.
‘The Flat’ – 45 minutes
Bill (Phil Barnett) and Sylvia (Maree Grayden) have been work friends for years, but now they have decided to take their friendship to a new and risky level. Phil plays the caring man, determined to make the most of their first tryst, but moaning Maree is having a change of mind. Two flawless – personal best? – performances for Phil and Maree. The chemistry was electric at times as the emotions swung from enthusiasm to panic. Little physical movement but their expressions and verbal interaction had the audience rivetted. Quite a few twists. Superb.
‘Serenade in Blue’ – 25 minutes
Oliver (James Hagan) is an elderly gentleman who was once recognised as a musical authority. He is sitting on a park bench in the sun, enjoying the peace and quiet when – uninvited – Cheryl (Rachel Bartlett) sits next to him. A conversation starts, but this young lady seems to be asking too many searching questions. Oliver suspects that she may be another dreaded newspaper reporter writing an exposé.
James playing the man aggressively on the defence against the poor girl trying her best to be kind, gave us two amazing performances. I cannot deny that they both had me in tears by the end. A script of this quality requires two special actors and Noel found them both in James and Rachel. Outstanding.
‘Love and Marriage’ – 20 minutes
A man (Rex Gray) and his wife (Sue Murray) are sitting on a park bench waiting to meet their long-term friends, who are going through difficult times in their marriage. But are these emotional healers at the correct park bench? Another refreshing light break from the intense highly dramatic performances. Rex and Sue’s interaction was so typical of a long-time married couple. Plenty of smiles in this charming comedy. Well done.
‘Ticket to Paradise’ – 20 minutes
Max (James Hagan) is the miserable whinging ex-partner of easy-going and happy Sid (Gino Cataldo). The two widowers worked together for thirty years, but now they are retired they still meet up at the same bench in a peaceful cemetery once a week for a game of draughts. Two wonderful characterisations. The story ticks along until an unexpected topic arises. Both actors gave life to the two complex characters as the unique storyline hit the rollercoaster.
The scripts for each play were so brilliantly structured and written, with dialogue that flowed naturally straight from the heart. In most of the plays, just when the ending you have worked out and anticipate is about to be revealed, this script takes a massive 90 degree turn and you find yourself faced with a totally unexpected twist and new problem.
Who would have thought that a simple park bench could mean so much to the many people that had sat on it and hide so many of their intimate stories? If you are a writer, actor or acting student these plays will give you a bar to aim for.
The script and style of acting – which depends on the actors becoming fully and emotionally involved – are perfect examples of what can be done with only two actors and a minimal set. These five plays are most memorable. The actors all gave performances that flowed so well, that at times you wondered if there was actually a script, or was it an everyday conversation? Five DO NOT MISS plays, similar setting but completely different genres. Highly recommended.