Baby With The Bathwater

(Centenary Theatre Group)


This is a perfect example of making the most of what you’ve got to work with. Despite a small budget, director John Boyce and his talented cast have pieced together Christopher Durang’s play sans hitch or hindrance.

Baby With The Bathwater is like a Woody Allen script with Monty Python wit and a character list devised by John Henson. Both droll and dry, but with underlying darkness that speaks ill of contemporary America, the play is loosely the story of two neurotic parents who could do with a lifetime of Dr Phil’s advice on babies. Indeed, Helen (played by Jane Cameron) and John (Chris Carroll) know so little about babies that they name their healthy young boy Daisy.

With the aid of the peculiar character of Nanny (June Balfour), whom Durant probably wrote a bit over the top, young Daisy is subject to nightly doses of Nyquil, ravenous dogs, screaming and what comes to be a whole new definition of negligence. Daisy is a scarred child and thanks to Nanny’s nihilism and a bizarre “boy named Sue” conundrum, Daisy undergoes psychiatric help.

Sub-plots drift in and out of the play and Natalie Bochenski, who does a good job of playing Daisy’s abstract principal Mrs Willoughby, and Genvieve Langbien, as Miss Pringle and Susan, should be commended; though the character of Cynthia is not expressed to its full potential.

For all the quirky dialogue, Durang has a malicious undertone to his writing and it is best expressed through Timothy Wotherspoon (who plays an older Daisy). At times Wotherspoon is reminiscent of a young Rick Mayall or Whithnail (from George Harrison’s funded Withnail and I) and bigger roles are surely waiting for him around the corner.

Although the backdrop to Baby With the Bathwater could have been pulled from a Bjork video clip, it reflects the absurd and Absolutely Fabulous-ness of the story. It is over the top and very bright. As the characters are so unrealistic to begin with, an unrealistic set only complements the director’s good taste.

Given the recent events in Sydney of a 12-year-old girl choosing to be a boy, the script, though American in origin, is relevant to an Australian audience. Those with a penchant for the risqué and an appreciation of nuances should get along to see this show.

PS: Leave the kids at home as they might be afraid of Nanny.

— Pat Watson
(Performance seen: Thu 22nd April 2004)