Wombat and Koala wing residents of Transitions Retirement Villa are quite well off. Or at least they thought they were. Retired jeweller, Jack Newman (Terry Crowe), noted for his dreadful late night TV advertising leads the friendship pack of residents all of whom have their money invested with Barney Effward (Chris Dewar). Jack together with the well organised Rose (Linda Edwards), Blanche who suffers the very odd and rare condition narcolepsy (Dawn Ross), forgetful and dithery Flora (Rebecca Gardner) and the soon to leave Wilf (Geoff Hastwell) share games of cards, conversation and warm friendship. Happy days! When news breaks that their trusted investment manager Barney has been arrested for conducting a fraudulent Ponzi scheme, residential harmony is shattered.
Then, by a set of circumstances most strange, offender Barney Effward is placed, seemingly for his own protection from other angry hordes, right within their midst at Transitions (albeit in disguise). It ultimately transpires that Barney has a fortune in diamonds salted away for his own investment future. Diamonds! Right up jeweller Jack’s alley! Well not exactly. In order to seal all the various deals now hastily struck re Barney’s hidden fortune all must be concealed from head nurse Miss Harper (Leanne Robinson) and curious constable (Phil Rodda), with Barney’s attorney Mortimer (Josh Van’t Padje) popping in from time to time just to confuse the issue even more.
The set is nicely redolent of an ubiquitous bright and spacious common room with space enough for the cast to move freely it being quite a physical movement piece, as farce can often be. The first act was somewhat slow and lumbering, lacking crispness of both movement and dialogue delivery. This, together with slow scene changes is an oft encountered first night issue. However Terry Crowe injected admirable energy and verve into his role as Jack the jeweller, and his level of enthusiasm was indeed infectious. His three lady friends Rose (Linda), Blanche (Dawn) and Flora (Rebecca) each invested their characters with an effective and consistent definition. Their individual and joint contributions were integral to the general mayhem throughout. Nurse Harper (Leanne) seemed a little too kindly to deserve Jack’s Nazi salute. She seemed to lack a necessary degree of severity and curtness. However she did deliver a well crafted performance and reveal another side of herself in the end!
Often, during the proceedings it is the one to one interactions that produce the most notable comedic elements. For example the interplays between Jack and Blanche or Jack and Barney, particularly in the well executed “fight” scene, all were highlights for me. I thought Barney (Chris) constructed and held his character together admirably and his delivery equally matched Jack’s dominating resonance. In a cameo role the lawyer Mortimer (Josh) gave a crisp and well timed performance. In general both timing and pace picked up a notch in the second act as the whole cast got into the swing of things.
The audience reacted well to all things medical, especially the “parade” of medications and reference to various laxative options. Indeed the audience was on board with the better tempo of the second act and that would have pleased director Harry Dewar as his well placed cast really got some serious movement happening. Whilst lacking just a little extra cut and polish Noarlunga’s offering of “Jack of Diamonds” was good clean fun.