Secret Bridesmaids' Business
First performed at Melbourne’s Playbox Theatre in 1999, Elizabeth Coleman’s Secret Bridesmaids' Business is one hilarious look at how it can all go wrong in those final moments before ‘the most important day in a woman’s life.’
Purely Pensive’s choice for its 10th production was a great one as not only is it a wonderful show but it's also one of many well-written Australian works to come out of the last 20 or so years.
The set -- a hotel bedroom scene designed by Anita Posterino where the characters are staying the night before the big day -- was detailed with well-chosen props, dressed well and used effectively throughout the production. The decision to have a 3-minute set change for a 1-minute monologue seemed unnecessary and stuck out amongst the other transitions that were fairly seamless. It felt like the monologue could have been performed without any scene change, even if it meant freezing the onstage action and having the monologue delivered to the audience at that point.
Director Kathryn Lynch has really brought out the best aspects of the story and its characters in her production. The conversational style in which much of the dialogue is presented is refreshing and allows the audience to feel as if they are flies on the wall rather than watching a stage show. At times some of the dialogue was delivered in an overly melodramatic fashion and this unfortunately resulted in an awkward silence rather than laughter, as the audience wasn’t quite sure of the intent behind the emotion. However, as mentioned in her director’s note, "the beating pulse of Secret Bridesmaids'... [is] the dilemma 'to tell or not to tell,’ " and it is clear from the start that she knows this and and has interpreted the material with skill. The concept of secrets and their potential is prevalent throughout and forms the basis of the final scene where an interesting decision is made by the bride and groom.
The overall pace of the show was smooth sailing and this was helped by the good grasp of both comic and dramatic timing from all performers involved. In particular Hannah McRae (as Angela Dixon) was an absolute hoot. She was engaging to watch each time she was on stage and, rather than creating what could have been a 2D, mousey housewife persona, she made Angela endearing and believable. Leah Milner (as Lucy Dean) had a difficult challenge in portraying the friend who decides to ‘do the right thing’ and reveal all to bride Meg Bacon (Hayley Gamble) but she played it well and I think we all want to forgive Lucy by the end and realise friendship is what's more important.
Rounding out the cast were Hayley Gamble (as Meg Bacon) who delivered some cracking one-liners and gave a gutsy performance; Trisha McRae (as the mother of the bride Colleen Bacon), whose naturalism and ‘woe is me’ persona was a winning combination; Robert Clark (as groom James Davis), whose character I liked a great deal more than I thought I would thanks to Clark's charm and the great facial expressions he interspersed throughout, making the most of his time on stage; and last, but not least, Emily Attardi (as Naomi Bartlett), the 'secret’ of the piece who showed just the right amount of attitude and pathos for her character.
Everyone involved in Purely Pensive’s Secret Bridesmaids' Business has to be commended for their efforts. As someone who has not seen many of their past productions I was pleasantly surprised by the calibre of the performances and the high standard of the production. It’s a shame this play isn't produced more often as it's a cracker. I know I got more than a few chuckles watching and I’m sure everyone else who saw the show did too. I can’t wait to see what Purely Pensive serves up next!
Nathan has completed performance training with Cait Harris at Sydney’s Globe Shakespeare Centre, at First Impressions Youth Theatre under the artistic direction of VCA graduate Martin White, and as part of Theatrica’s 2007 Broadway tour. His previous musical theatre credits include Snowboy in ARC’s West Side Story, Jerome in Merrily We Roll Along (OPTC), Assistant Director of ARC’s Hello Dolly and Babirra Music Theatre’s Sweet Charity, and most recently he performed the role of Lysander in STAG’s A Midsummer Night's Dream. Other credits include Peter Quince in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, co-creating and performing in Plastic Palace Alice’s ''Empire Falls’' music video, and the 2006 Short and Sweet Festival in Hunterville.