The First Sunday in December

(Stagedoor Dinner Theatre)


Is this the first play to have changed its title during its run? In fact, it hasn’t, despite being rebadged “The Great Aussie Backyard BBQ Goes Up in Flames” in the Courier-Mail‘s daily entertainment listings (a result of their misreading some publicity material). Playwright Eric Scott’s actual title better fits the theme of the play the annual early summer Christmas party/birthday party/barbecue hosted by boss TC for his hapless employees. Scott’s script is full of comic situations and laughs, with original spins on some of the perennial comedy themes of male rivalries, generational rivalries, female rivalries, male misbehaviour, female misbehaviour, and so on …

The play is well cast, with each of the performers doing well. As TC, Trevor Jones blusters his way through the show, presenting a vain and aging bovver boy with little loyalty to family, friends or workers. One quibble: his accent perhaps needs explanation in the script.

Trish Kelleher and Andrea Carne are wonderful as the long-suffering older wives who seem an oasis of calm in the midst of the histrionics of the younger women and the puerile gropings of the men of all ages. Gourie Blackley presents well as the confused and shy newly-pregnant wife of ambitious young executive Terry. As Terry, Blake Young makes a shaky start but warms to the role, doing well in representing his descent into drunkenness and bravado. As the voluptuous Vanessa, Melinda Buttle pouts and titillates well. Author Scott could I thought have sketched her character a little more deeply in representing her motivations. (For the other characters he has done this well.)

Caroline Frewin is a top-class Gail, effectively depicting her hurt and bewilderment at her abandonment by her husband, while that ex-husband, Mark, is played superbly by Scott Hossack. He really captures this familiar Aussie character who is in turns bully, clown and insecure worrier: his belated realisation of his folly is very well represented.

The technical aspects of the production work well, including a good set depicting a typical Australian patio. Damien Lee has done a good job as director, successfully deploying his cast of eight on the tiny stage.

The theatrical presentation is complemented by an efficiently served and excellent three-course dinner together with reasonable and reasonably priced house wines, which make it a great night out for a group. I’m sure groups of workmates would especially enjoy this show, particularly if they take their boss along.

— John Henningham
(Performance seen: Fri 6th February 2004)