Most community theatre companies don’t have the resources or opportunity to workshop and produce a play with the playwright sitting beside the director. The Adelaide Repertory Theatre has done exactly that with well known local actor and playwright Brenton Whittle’s Well Shut My Mouth.The Rep is of course very brave to tackle an untried piece from workshopping through the rehearsal and production processes. Generally speaking, this play is worth the effort. However, there is still much work that can be done.
Playwright Whittle describes the darkly comical piece as a “… witty and surreal theatre journey” and goes on to tell us that underneath the sometimes tiring humour, is a search for the true relationships of the family who may well have differing memories of such relationships.
William Clarence (Clarry) Hobbs (Andrew Horwood) is lying mortally ill in hospital when he suddenly, in the words of his wife Mary(Julie Quick) “passes over.” She,like other members of the family are unable to say that Clarry “died.” How each member of Clarry’s family copes with this “passing over” seems to be a key theme of the play.
The surprise packet in this pay is the sudden flash of a bell , a blaze of white light and the “passed over” Clarry, suddenly sits up in his coffin and commences to talk to the audience about his life, his family and his rotten jokes. His “Dad” jokes really are quite nerdy -bogan almost.
The setting is minimalist, open, and barren of furniture but it works well. Clarry’s wife Mary is the only family member who gets somewhere to sit, and that is on her walker!
Mary seems not to understand why Clarry has “passed over” and harbours disgruntlement because of it, she is cross about granddaughter Tambourine’s (Carolina Fioravanti) flippancy concerning Clarry and doesn’t appreciate Clarry’s coffin being set on the dining room table.
Clarry’s grandson Billy Barks (Sebastien Skubala) appears to be the only family member who genuinely, seriously, missed Clarry’s passing and he does it in silence throughout. Billy’s father Andy (James Black) certainly couldn’t grasp it. Harry(Greg Janzow), Clarry’s brother, didn’t seem to miss him at all.
The script provided some laughs, much of it “bogan”(ish) in tone as exampled by Clarry’s brother Harry showing little sensitivity toward his brother.
The characters are mostly one dimensional and transparent, but may well round out as the season runs.
It is a consideration how many family members will actually miss Clarry. Mary will, so too will grandson Billy who had empathy for the old man.
As Clarry, Andrew Horwood was in fine form and was the stand out performer of the night. Julie Quick was doggedly consistent as Clarry’s wife and all other cast members worked well as an ensemble, much needed in such a piece as this.
It will be fascinating to follow the journey of this project as with further work, it is felt Well Shut My Mouth will do well.