January is Brisbane professional theatre’s month of shame. Taxpayer-built theatres sit empty while potential theatre-goers spend their evenings in cinemas or in cafes, where they gloomily sip coffees served to them by unemployed actors.
Against this backdrop, Brisbane Arts Theatre shows what should be happening at South Brisbane, Kelvin Grove and New Farm.
Starting its theatrical year even before the midnight chimes of New Year’s Eve, Arts entertains its loyal customers with shows for adults and children, all the result of amateur performers and crew dedicating their holidays to theatre for the love of it.
And in this January’s main house production, Come Blow Your Horn, they have another winner.
Neil Simon’s first play, first produced in 1961, this is an amusing if not particularly challenging take on family life. Set in the dying days of the pre-permissive society, it features the shenanigans of a pair of brothers as they pursue various women and seek to avoid their parents’ attempts at control. Director Gary O’Neil achieves a good pace, notwithstanding some slower passages in the dialogue, while sets and lighting evoke the era.
The cast act uniformly well. Darrell Plumridge as elder brother Alan is a convincing man-about-town who directs his energies into avoiding his father’s expectations that he work for a living. The ladies he juggles are entertainingly and fetchingly presented by Bil Campbell Hurry and Georgina Robinson. Marcus Costello succeeds in capturing younger brother Buddy’s metamorphosis from nerd to letch. The roles of the parents are played well by a commanding Brian Cannon and a confused Margaret Doumany, who is most effective in a long solo passage involving ringing phones and mixed messages.
With the exception of Cannon, the performers’ accents are for the most part satisfactory, at least to Australian ears. I continue to wonder why local directors don’t re-set plays such as these in Australia, so as to avoid the whole accent problem.
That quibble aside, this is a nice start to the year from the Arts Theatre. Professional companies, please take note!