Monday, November 15, 2010

Theatre: House of Fun

Fish in a Vortex Productions
Created and directed by Nate Doherty
Featuring Fran Middleton, Mischa Ipp, Whitney Richards and Chris Isaacs
Blue Room Theatre
November 3 – 20, 2010

Welcome to the Lion's Den
Northbridge’s Blue Room Theatre has been mining a rich vein of domestic comedy/dramas lately with The Pride and Jack + Jill, and the motherlode continues with House of Fun, Nate Doherty’s sharp and entertaining story of shared living in Perth.
Three girls, the statuesque, promiscuous Angela (Mischa Ipp), the ambitious Facebook-addicted Gemma (Fran Middleton) and the sweet, na├»ve Winnie (Whitney Richards) share a house – although not everything in its fridge – with a volatile mixture of camaraderie and bitchiness.
Winnie has a new friend, the charismatic Quentin (Chris Isaacs), who makes a sudden arrival at the house and into their lives. Quentin is trouble, and the hassles he brings and causes drive the story forward.
The early scenes, with the girls staking their various claims on cheese and counter space, are nicely observed, tightly paced and often hilarious. The Blue Room “stage” is only the floor at one end of a room, but the performers’ execution of complex exits and entrances in this limited space is snappy and precise, adding greatly to the momentum of the piece’s dialogue and action.
Whitney Richards (pic: Poppy Penny)
Ipp, Middleton and Richards deliver totally convincing performances; as well as nailing their characters beautifully, their ensemble work is as tight as a water ballet and an entertainment in itself. It’s perhaps unfair to single any of them out, but Whitney Richards is just great as Winnie; she buries herself in sweetness and compels you to care for her character. When she finally realises that Quentin is not the man for her, and worse than that, you want him out of her life just as much as she does.
Isaacs’ performance is also strong, but in the end it’s the housemates you want to hang with, not the intruder.
The strength of the script is its observations on life for 20-somethings in cities like Perth; it’s drawn from stories collected as the project developed (a nascent version had an airing in The Blue Room’s Early Stages program) and they have the unmistakeable ring of truth about them. Far less convincing was the plot line of Quentin’s nefarious activities, and the production sags noticeably while it is being worked through. While it’s obviously necessary to have some dirty work happen to bring Quentin’s relationship with the girls to a head, I’m sure Doherty will find a better vehicle for it if House of Fun gets the further exposure I think it deserves.

An edited version of this review appeared in The West Australian on 17.11.10 read here             

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