SUMMER SHORTS 2021 (Melville)

‘Summer Shorts 2021’ is a selection of short plays that have been written by three West Australian playwrights.

The Melville Theatre Company is presenting these plays for your pleasure at the Melville Theatre, 393 Canning Hwy on the corner of Stock Road in Palmyra. The curtain rises on this two-hour production at 8.00 pm on Thursday 18th, Friday 19th, with two shows on Saturday 20th February at 2.00 pm and 8.00 pm.

This annual series of ‘shorts’ is designed to encourage the theatrical doubtfuls, by giving full facilities to new playwrights, hopeful directors and anyone wanting to try ‘treading the boards’. This wonderful selection has several newcomers, from a recent school leaver to including one – dare I say middle-aged actor – in her very first play. Yes, it is never too late to try something new.

The smart programme for the show was designed by Vanessa Jensen.

Despite the guaranteed warm welcome from Melville Theatre, I am advised that the season is a total sell-out and last night, sadly people were turned away.

The set for all three plays: A stunning décor of cream walls, with a deeper cream door centrally on the back wall. To the side, a chimney breast with a magnificent, huge carved teak fireplace and a matching wood fire-screen. There is a sumptuous dark leather sofa with drinks side table and a vintage French rotary telephone.

The good, solidly built set was constructed and painted by Peter Bloor, Jacob Jensen, Ross Bertinshaw, Susan Lynch, Vanessa Jensen, Alan Kennedy and Siobhán O’Gara.

Lighting and Soundscape well designed and operated by Jacob Jensen. The Heist called for special effects and these were most realistic and atmospheric.

Overall Stage Manager was Laura Mercer.

‘The Heist’ is a comedy by local playwright, Shirley Toohey (approx. 20 minutes). Shirley has also won an Old Mill ‘Milly’ award for her acting.

The scene is Muriel’s (Marsha Holt) apartment in The Bronx. She is tiding up in preparation for her three 70-yrs. Old, long-term lady friends who are coming around for their weekly game of Bridge. Delia (Julie Holmshaw) with a medical weakness, has brought along baklava which her slightly dotty friend, Ingrid (Kate Nosworthy) cannot pronounce. Poor Camilla (Ellie Cutbush) is feeling her age.

There is a knock on the door and a desperate young man, Lenny (Chris Northover) is needing their help.

Directed by Michelle Sharp, this is a fun comedy with some delightful elderly characters. The script is professionally written and with a good twist, but the unnecessary American accent took both the cast a brief time to fully adapt to and for the audience to tune into. There were some uproarious situations, along with tension and pathos. A good mix well directed and presented.

‘Little Angels’ a moving drama written by Yvette Wall (approx. 25 minutes). This play won an award at the Noosa Arts Theatre National One-Act play writing competition. Many congrats to Yvette.

Stage management and props by James Holloman.

It is 1966 in St Bernadette’s hostel for pregnant unmarried girls. Two of the inmates are wearing bleached cotton, full length nightdresses and lying on their minimal comfort, single beds. A worldly girl, Trish (Connie Wetherilt) is reading a saucy teenage magazine and is about to give birth; however, her younger and naïve roommate, Joanie (Kelcey Backus) spends most of her time praying for her baby Anne.

Sister Gabriel (Sarah Christiner), who is still in her twenties, genuinely feels empathy for the girls. However, the sour faced, elderly Irish Sister Francis (Jo Sterkenburg) feels that their carnal sins (of which one suspects she may be jealous) has other brutal thoughts and ways of arranging the girls’ futures.

The two abandoned girls were delightfully portrayed by Connie and Kelsey. Joanie with her innocence and Trish with a wild but motherly care for her dormitory friend. One could feel the frustration as Sister Gabriel – Sarah – tried to drum some compassion and sense into pious Sister Francis, whose haughtiness was boldly enacted by Jo.

With such a sensitive and sad script – many of the older audience members will remember Sister Kate’s in Subiaco – it is easy to have the writer lose the punch and the suffering by too sweet a script. Yvette gave us an accurate view of a raw deal.  Directed by Siobhán O’Gara, strong cast guidance on a difficult topic. Impressive and memorable.

A Dame Remembers’ is a mad comedy written by Bob Charteris (approx. 35 minutes). One of his best comedies yet.

The Scene: A luxurious country house in Amersham, near Oxford in the UK. Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Cecilia’ is playing quietly.

Harry, a plumber and general handyman (Jason Crane) is finishing off a toilet repair.

On the settee sits immaculately dressed, snobbish drama queen, Dame Cecilia Coleridge (Jenny Wren), an ageing thespian who for decades has found getting any kind of role hard to come by. Having devised a plan, she has decided to invite her agent, Eleanor (Sharon Menzies) whom she has not seen for some time, to call around. She also invites her niece and PR guru, Ashley (Tasha Jane) for drinks.

When a former lover, Henri Delacroix (Tom Rees) arrives, Cecilia cannot believe her luck as she reveals her original strategy to bring her reputation back to the attention of the public.

Directed by Bob Charteris he has chosen a wonderful cast that really got into the spirit of the script. The dialogue was written skilfully for each character. Jenny was outstanding as Dame Cecilia she lived every line, with her acerbic comments and great put you down lines. A couple of false endings need a little attention, but the audience chuckled throughout.

I can recommend this play to other groups; the Brits would love it.

Susan Lynch has lined up an exceptional programme for 2021, let us hope the empty seats for Covid are allowed to be filled soon.