‘Ninety’ is a romantic drama by newspaper columnist, librettist, and playwright, Joanna Murray-Smith. Joanna is a mum in her early fifties, has three children and they live near Melbourne.
Joanna is a world respected author, and one of Australia’s most successful writers. Her themes of ‘feminism’ and the ‘suppressed masses by the privileged’, has, at times, brought her writing vitriolic opposition, whilst others have said that she inhabits her characters and is a leader with compassion.
The Garrick Theatre Club presentation can be seen at the Garrick Theatre, 16 Meadow Street, Guildford. The curtain rises on this 90-minute production every Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 8.00 until 18th October. There are Sunday matinees at 2.00 pm.
The setting is an artist’s studio at 5.30 on a Thursday evening. The room is painted in light grey with silver woodwork (naff). Around the walls are tapestries, drapes and paintings. There are piles of artworks of several genres leaning on the walls waiting to be completed. Centre stage is a double bed, to the side a sofa and an artist’s table loaded with paints. Good Bohemian atmosphere.
A young artist, Isabel (Katrina Murphy), is restoring van Eyck’s ‘Arnolfini Portrait’ depicting a young man and his pregnant wife. The front door opens and a man enters, he is William (Gino Cataldo) Isabel’s ex-husband, her love from a relationship that quite simply and inexplicably crumbled.
William is an internationally famous film star, and is about to fly to Paris to get married for a second time. However, Isabel – still deeply in love with him – has contacted him and asked for 90 minutes of his time before the wedding ceremony, which William has agreed to.
At great inconvenience to himself, William gives Isabel the 90 minutes she wants. In this time, they go through their life together since meeting, examining the rough with the smooth. They appear to prefer self-reflection rather than truly studying their relationship together.
Will William, seeing their bonds as unbreakable, cancel the immanent wedding? Alternatively, will he leave his memories behind?
Director Brendan Ellis and his assistant Dale James have selected a wonderful cast for such an emotionally challenging play. Katrina was outstanding; she was alive, vibrant and totally involved with the character that she was playing. She was loving, sexy, caring and at one stage had tear-filled eyes. I heard someone saying that they thought Gino was slow to warm up, but he played a man that had been summoned by his ex-wife to have a meaningful chat. William would have been most apprehensive and defensive. In the script, it is clear that William has not been fully aware of the true depth of Isabel’s love for him. With the flashbacks, both actors changed their demeanour back and forth perfectly. It was in these flashbacks that both actors had tricky monologues, spoken directly to the audience with lowered lighting and just a single spot illuminating them.
Clayton Reichert and Josh Harris’ lighting was warm and soft for the flashbacks and of a cold hue for real life. Most effective. Clayton also designed the sound that was accurately synchronised by Angela Donlan and Brendan Ellis.
I must apologise for the fact that for the first time in five years I had a visual migraine and felt really ill, mid play. When I had my head in my hands, sitting in the front row, the poor actors musty have thought that I was hating every second. Again, sorry.
A tricky play to perform, but very well carried off by the magnificent cast who captured the emotions beautifully.