Penned by the creator, the Australian hit TV series Mother & Son is set to make its stage debut in July. The stage comedy will feature all your favourites: Maggie (Noeline Brown) , Arthur (Darren Gilshenan), Robert (Shane Jacobson), Monica Hartwell (Robyn Arthur) and Liz Beare (Nicki Wendt).
Nicki Wendt plays Liz Beare (played by Judy Morris in the TV show) the long suffering wife of Robert the “perfect” son, played by Shane Jacobson. She is frustrated, fed up and doesn’t bother to hide it. She has a short fuse and a sharp tongue and isn’t afraid to use it. She is the mother to Damien and Teonie and, while well aware of her husband's affairs, she finds it difficult to prove any of them, because of Robert's well honed skill at covering them up. So in the meantime, Liz compensates by spending Robert's money and socialising with her equally rich, bored and unhappy friends.
It has been 30 years since the TV show first graced our screens – running from '84 to '94 – and the show is an iconic part of our Australian made TV landscape. The stage show is intent on honouring the spirit of the TV show that came before it and to make sure that all the fans will see the familiar characters they came to love.
"The play has been written by Geoffrey Atherden – the man who created the T.V. characters in the first place. He knows them better than anyone and he’s been heavily involved in the rehearsal process," explains Wendt. "He seems happy with the performances so far and has expressed a strong desire for the action of the play to be set very much in the present day. Mobile phones, DVDs and a myriad of other “things” that we now consider everyday items, shape a lot of the play’s plot and Maggie’s ever increasing confusion."
So far for Wendt, who was asked to play the role after being involved in a reading of an early draft of the script in December, her Mother & Son experience has been nothing short of amazing. "Everything's been amazing! It’s been a very happy (if a little CHILLY!) and absorbing rehearsal period." Wendt is understandably excited because: "Liz is a great character and has some fabulous one-liners."
Wendt is a WAPPA graduate with a career that spans across theatre, TV, film and radio as well as directing numerous productions for the Victorian Opera. Her theatre credits include Rockabye, Three Days of Rain, Company, Gypsy, Annie Get Your Gun and many more. In 2013 Wendt won a Green Room Award for Best Opera Direction (Midnight Son). Fans of Neighbours may remember Wendt as Penelope Porter circa late '80's however Wendt as had a prolific body of TV credits since then: Acropolis Now, Sea Change, Halifax f.p., Crash Zone, MDA, Rush and City Homicide to name a few.
With a lengthy list of TV credits to her name, it turns out Wendt likes working on the stage. "It sounds like a cliché because most actors say this – it is because of the immediacy of the experience, The audience doesn’t realise it, but they become a part of the show, every show. Their energy affects the performers which in turn affects the rhythm and pulse of every performance. Kind of a thrilling idea, really, isn’t it?"
Now, 30 years later, sharp-edged humour is again seamlessly blended with sadness to address the show's plot which is the problems of ageing and caring for somebody with Alzheimer's disease. The Arthur and Maggie relationship is remarkably complex and there is no doubt that the stage show's premiere at the Comedy Theatre later this month will be a sell out. Says Wendt: "I would say come and see the show and be amazed at how funny and moving it is. And Noeline Brown and Darren Gilshenan are an absolute TREAT of a double act!!!!!!
Mother & Son plays: July 18 – August 17