Touch and Go

(Act 1 Theatre)


I was amused to realise halfway through Touch and Go that I had been seated next to another reviewer one with a notebook, no less. I tried to point this fact out to my mother, who I’d taken along, but she told me to shush quick smart, or I’d miss the show.

Good advice, too. A farce comedy requires undivided attention, as the plots normally twist and turn faster than the Wipeout ride at Dreamworld. Touch and Go is no different. A clever script supported by strong performances makes for a great night of theatre in Brisbane’s northern suburbs.

I won’t get too carried away with plot, but stay with me while I outline the basics. Every Wednesday, Brian (Ross Marsden) borrows his friend George’s (Glen Male) flat to conduct an affair with the delectable Wendy (Kimberley Platt). George is fine with this arrangement, as at that time, he’s round at Brian’s house doing the nasty with Brian’s wife Hilary (Wendy Kemp), and his wife Jessica is on business in America.

This has been going on quite smoothly for three months, but this Wednesday is different. Jessica returns from overseas a day early, and discovers Brian and Wendy in her flat. This is the beginning of, as a friend of mine would say, the “wacky shenanigans” that comprise the rest of the play. What follows is two hours of mayhem and madness, and plenty of cocovan thrown in to boot.

Act 1 has chosen well with this play, written by Derek Benfield and directed by Act 1 veteran Colin Russell. The small cast allows for strong performances, and the minimal set design works well on the Old Shire Hall stage. Male and Marsden play up their roles as the cheating husbands, desperately trying to have their cake and eat it too. The play calls for some great physical humour and visual jokes, and Male and Marsden get to exhibit their flair for physical comedy and slapstick. When Male ran into his flat in an ill-fitting Oxfam suit after twice leaving Brian and Hilary’s place in his boxer shorts, my mother laughed so hard I didn’t think she’d make it to the curtain call.

Kemp and Platt as the objects of the men’s desires are also entertaining Kemp by giving her husband Brian more and more to worry about, and Platt by looking horribly confused for most of the second half as she wonders why everyone thinks she’s a Red Cross nurse. I particularly enjoyed Pauline Davies’ performance as George’s wife Jessica. Fantastically English in all of her mannerisms, she carried off her role as the only one with nothing to hide with a Penelope Keith in “To The Manor Born” precision.

My criticisms would only be technical ones, most notably the design of the stage. The Act 1 stage is quite a small area, and it was divided in two to represent the two flats. Since more of the action took place in George and Jessica’s flat, the Brian and Hilary flat could have been slightly smaller. The play called for a lot of jumping up and running around, and occasionally the “invisible wall” between the two flats was crossed. A smaller second flat could have remedied this problem. Also slightly inconsistent were the characters’ accents, all ostensibly English, but not of the same standard.

However, these things did not ruin a fine night of theatre. It’s good to see smaller theatres like Act 1 choosing plays that suit the space they have to work with and also suit the taste of the audience, who all enjoyed it. Well, I know my Mum did, but as for that other reviewer . . .

— Natalie Bochenski
(Performance seen: Thu 26th April 2001)