Rules for Living – Adelaide Repertory Theatre

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 People have certain strategies they use to cope with the difficulties of living. UK playwright Sam Holcroft’s  new play  Rules For Living, is a black comedy spiralling, through long- held family rivalries into  vicious farce, in the latter part of the play..

The plot concerns two brothers Matthew(Chris Eaton) and Adam(Steve Marvenek) who have gathered at the family home on Christmas Day to welcome home  from hospital, their intolerant father Francis (Norm Caddick). The brothers are part of a dysfunctional family who come with  much baggage.

At the back of the stage  is set an illuminated board detailing the rules how various characters cope with living. As the play progresses we see how destructive (and funny) these rules in reality can be.

Successful Adelaide director Megan Dansie, has deftly brought together this difficult piece which sharply underscores the coping strategies of the family (the “rules”) and concomitantly, the preparation of the Christmas lunch. As an example, the mother Edith, (Penni Hamilton-Smith) prepares the Christmas festivities with  military precision and emotional blackmail.

The setting, by BenTodd and Ms Dansie, is an open- plan  kitchen/living/dining room which is serviceable for the vigorous and increasingly frenetic movement of the players.

Act 1 seems  perhaps a little flat, but as the rules start to bite in Act 2, it progresses into a  full -blown vicious and  physical, not to mention excruciatingly funny farce .The card game without rules in the second act and the food fight at the end, is beautifully choreographed by both director  and.  actors

Performances  were generally  even. Penni Hamilton-Smith as Edith, warmed to her task in Act 2, whilst Megan Doherty (Carrie), Jaye Gordon (Sheena)   Chris Eaton (Matthew) and a bullish Steve Marvanek (Adam) carried the twisted narrative with greater relish after intermission.

The depressed Emma (EmilyHodgkison)  and  stroke- affected Francis (Norm Caddick) make  late appearances towards the end of the second act.