*** stars

By Ian Nott

We all like an outlier, well most of the time, as they show point of difference between the conventional and the unconventional and they can be outrageously behaved. Nick Coyle’s play, first produced at Griffin Theatre Company in 2018, serves up a vampish, sassy and conceited outlier named Kimberly (Michelle Brasier) who we hate, laugh with, feel sorry for, and by the end of the play observe just enough vulnerability in her for us to perhaps finally understand just what makes her tick.

But it is a long, drawn-out character trajectory and long journey of a play. The play is really silly at times and does not quite cut the mustard in conveying its purpose. It does feel like delivering a bad fart joke in front of grandma – it’s just a little awkward. The actors do their best with what they have in their scripts. There are funny shenanigans and twisted moments that pleasantly surprise.

Red Stitch has opened its 2020 season continuing its faithful connection to the Midsumma Festival in mounting The Feather in the Web, the unusual title for the unusual play directed by Declan Greene who co-founded he highly successful Sisters Grimm Theatre Company and is now Artistic Director of Griffin Theatre.

Whilst characters are well defined and amusingly larger than life, there was a flatness surrounding whole production with moments that did not hit the mark either in creating pathos or humour. I am not sure if making suicide the butt of a camp joke should be the order of the day; my sense of humour does not stretch that far.

Kimberley is presented as someone who sees the world in a unique way. The ability to act on impulse and get what she wants and take what she desires is her modus operandi. She meets Miles (George Lingard) while working as a waitress at his engagement party. Her desire for Miles explodes but he happens to be engaged to Lily (Emily Milledge). Kimberley befriends Lily and moves into with the couple who are holed-up in Miles’s family home, governed by his all-consuming nasty, back-biting mother (Belinda McGlory). Chaos reigns and deals are brokered and promises forgotten. Lily finds her true self but then sadly loses her best friend Kimberley when Miles finally ejects “Kimberley, the Mistress of Chaos” from the house.

Falling in love, or is it shall we say, lust, can sometimes be a bumpy ride. Sitting alongside the other deadly sins, the pursuit of one’s obsession can be fraught with extreme emotion. This is one way to make sense of the play. Or, you can simply enjoy its peculiarity.

The audience does get to tie up loose ends in the concluding scene. Kimberly, in a rare moment of calm and perspective, contemplates life. We glimpse a stance that advocates for the nature of companionship and love. A type of love which is more important than the frantic quest for intimacy that is not reciprocated.

There are some stellar moments when Coyle’s the high-octane camp writing works best. Patrick Durnan Silva plays his three comic roles with excellent timing. His make-up artist character is hilarious when he tries to befriend the world weary and unhappy Kimberley into buying his products. Then there is his Jenny, the improv teacher. Lily coaxes Kimberly to accompany here to the improv classes to improve her personality at work. Kimberley outshines the teacher in a brutal display of one upmanship. Silva’s furry onesie as he performs Jenny is a great costume choice.

Belinda McGlory is commanding as Miles’s desperate mother; her scenes manage to lift the production and all her other characters are well drawn. Georgina Naidu conveys a hilarious psychiatrist who gets taken in by Kimberly’s vampish powers.

Tom Backhaus’ sound design is a strong featured on the production which helps to give it a sense of fun. With the volume up high, the small Red Stitch theatre venue ensured our ear drums got a good workout.

The story of Kimberley, fierce and unyielding, who refuses to come unstuck when she meets the man of her dreams, is still worth a look during Midsumma.

Images: Pier Carthew

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