‘The Bright Side of Life’ is a superbly written play by Siobhán Wright, blending sadness with lots of comedy. Originally presented five years ago as part of Stirling’s ‘Midsummer Mix’, the play has been skilfully expanded in length from a 55-minute short, to this high quality 110-minute full length play. Often playwrights will simply put in heaps of padding whilst converting from short to full length, but this play has several well thought out story threads, with great characters that kept you wanting more.
Siobhán has been a true community theatre player here in Perth. She has written, directed, acted, built sets, been costume mistress with her involvement in more than thirty plays.
This two-hour, community theatre production is presented by Roxy Lane Theatre Players at the Roxy Lane Theatre, on the corner of 55 Ninth Avenue and Roxy Lane, Maylands. Curtain goes up each Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 7.30 until the 10th of April. The Sunday matinées are at 2.00 pm.
I should like to mention the new seating. The comfortable padded chairs are sensibly spaced, and now with a double tier seating rostrum at the rear of the auditorium, a clear view of the stage is available at every seat.
Tickets from www.TAZtix.com.au/bright.
The scene: An upmarket, old folks’ home in Perth.
The set: Designed by Siobhán Wright, the set is stunning. The rear wall has twin patio doors leading to the rear garden. In the far corner of the room is a table for tea and coffee making. On the audience left of the stage is a passage leading to the guests’ private rooms. The sumptuous, six high-backed armchairs with floral covers are alternated with small coffee tables.
Set Builder and large props provider: Jim Chantry has taken this young theatre from its basic school hall appearance, with admirable but poor-quality sets (due to a total lack of funds the sets were built to a budget), to a beautiful, bright and solidly built room that would pass as a real common room of bricks and mortar.
Set Painter: Sharon Thomas has taken a great deal of time to make it look genuine, with the patio garden artwork being most convincing.
Properties: Caz Doherty has supplied all the little extras such as wall pictures, which bring the place to life.
Lighting and sound were designed and operated by: Fleur Pereira, who has conquered the difficult to light areas with an even lighting and a slight warm glow.
Stage Manager: Caz Doherty quick and efficient.
Poster and Programme: Impressive, well-done Kirsten Halford-Bailey.
It is late afternoon when a newcomer to the home, Julia Cassey (Siobhán Wright) is conveyed by her son, Paul Casey (Jason Jones) – who will make you cringe. The caring Nurse (Jenni Glassford) introduces Julia to the other ladies in the room enjoying their golden years. Their lives are never boring.
Pushing her way to the front is the self-centred, boasting and extremely wealthy, Mona Roberts (Josephine Wayling, fabulous) but how much of her story is true?
An Irish treasure, and the hub of warmth for the inmates, is Maggie Bright (Mary Carroll, a delight). Desperately seeking attention is hypochondriac Betty (Christine Ellis) and her friend, a poor lonely soul, Annie (Sylvia Perrin) who has suffered trauma.
The visiting but resolute occupational therapist, Oliver (Tim Riessen) soon has an exercise routine going.
Maggie’s loving son Jason Bright (Chris Harris / Carl Flynn) and her wild daughter, Frankie Bright (Sharon Thomas) are regular visitors.
Near the end Mona’s daughter (Melinda Perrin) makes contact.
Most of the costumes were supplied by the actors, but a few of Maggie’s ‘specials’ were knitted and sourced by Josephine Wayling and Siobhán Wright.
My feelings about playwrights who direct their own work is well known; they rarely succeed. If they also act in the play, disaster is sure to follow. OK mea culpa. This production was first-class. Whether it is thanks to the great writing, a very well-rehearsed cast – many of whom have had little previous experience – or the loving care that director Siobhan Wright and her assistant director, Siobhán O’Gara have ploughed into this presentation, the whole show had a genuine warmth and comradery between the players. A few actors whom I have seen in the past giving, dare I say, average performances actually shone in this. They came alive with a new confidence, great voice projection and terrific pace.
Even though I saw the original short play, this was fresh and most enjoyable. Highly recommended, especially for those with a relative in an old folks’ home. A smile a minute.