David Williamson’s “Scarlett O’Hara at the Crimson Parrot“, by St Jude’s Players, provides a captivating glimpse into the life of Scarlett, a waitress in her thirties living with her mother. The production weaves movie projections into the narrative which was particularly humorous when those old movies incorporated Scarlett and her counterparts. Local and regional South Australian references are seamlessly integrated, contributing to the play’s relatability.
Complementing this narrative is the set designed by Don Oakley. It divides the stage into three areas – the front-of-house restaurant, back-of-house kitchen, and Scarlett’s lounge room. Director, Geoff Brittain uses that design to great effect along with an extension of the restaurant into the audience.
Kate van der Horst plays Scarlett with a convincing blend of clumsiness and a passion for classic romantic films. The play explores Scarlett’s escapism, where she daydreams about Hollywood legends like Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart, projecting herself figuratively and literally as the heroine in their movies. In parallel, Rhonda Grill’s portayal of Maureen, the mother of Scarlett, captures a politically incorrect and needy woman yearning for more from her 30-year-old daughter, including her marrying and giving her grandchildren.
The kitchen scenes will resonate with anyone in the hospitality industry, capturing the layout, banter, swearing, and typical characters found in such settings. Amanda Grifsas, as Shelley, impresses with her consistent character depiction as the other waitress and spot-on facial expressions. The way in which she adeptly adjusted herself and applied her smile every time she transitioned from the kitchen to the customers was perfect.
Gordon, the charming kitchen hand, is a gay character with a passion for old classic movies. Portrayed by Harry Dewar, Gordon’s character is played with finesse, bringing a delightful touch to the role. Scarlett’s boss, Chef Steve, was effectively and authentically conveyed by Josh van’t Padje and Simon Lancione delivered as Sous Chef Gary.
Adam Schultz effectively captures Alan, the sociophobe customer who becomes infatuated with Scarlett. As the story unfolds, Schultz skilfully conveys Alan’s growth in confidence, and, in a memorable moment, Schultz highlights his singing talent.
Opening night nerves led to a few stumbled lines, but the cast quickly settled into their roles. Richard Parkhill’s lighting design added the right ambiance and special effects. Despite a couple of minor errors on the night, the technical elements of the show were well executed. Props by Leah Klemm and Louise Lapans deserve applause for their attention to detail, conveying a functional kitchen, appetising meals, and various other items.
In conclusion, St Jude’s Players’ final 2023 production offers us a view of our own cultural tapestry, showcasing the good, the bad, and the ugly in Australia. It is a humorous and visually appealing show offering a good fun theatrical experience.