Melbourne Theatre Company's latest offering is from the writer of Malthouse Theatre’s critically-acclaimed Furious Mattress and The Spook, Melissa Reeves’ Happy Ending is a comedy about desire and misguided obsession.
The story centres around Louise who is in her forties, happily married (more or less) and fairly content with her life. Surprisingly, she has developed a desperate and passionate crush on her Chinese masseur. Months of daily manipulations have brought her neither release from her infatuation nor any closer to consummating it. The young man, it would seem, has her in his grip.
Australian actor and writer Roz Hammond plays Liliana and says that some of the play's themes are completely relatable. "The play is essentially about a woman’s mid life crisis and she becomes infatuated with a young Chinese masseur at one of those massage shops in Northland. I play her best friend who is fairly direct and cynical and certainly tells it like it is. I can relate to the mid life crisis thing – I found turning 40 pretty tough last year – it was a real time of reflection and eventually acceptance of where I’m at … and then knuckling down and making a few plans, and letting go of others. Essentially, it’s quite liberating but I went quite loopy for a while there."
Hammond was bitten by the acting bug early and was encouraged by her parents – both with an interest in the performing arts. "I started doing AMEB Speech and Drama exams when I was about five and loved going to my class after school every week," she say. "I did theatre arts at school in Perth and when I was in year 11 some WAAPA students (the first year’s intake) came to speak to our class and suddenly studying acting and becoming a professional actor seemed a real possibility. I made it my mission on that day to study at WAAPA. My parents had met while they were playing Romeo and Juliet’s mother in a University Dramatic Society production of Romeo and Juliet, so they’d both had an interest in acting and theatre."
Hammond cites her most challenging role to date as the 60’s US poet Anne Sexton in a wonderful new play called Red Silk written by Lois Achimovich. "It was challenging because Anne had a lot of mental health issues and was treated inappropriately by a number of psychiatrists so it was very emotionally and mentally draining but extremely rewarding," she explains. "Also, it was a drama and I most often get cast in comic roles so it was wonderful to flex my drama muscles."
Hammond is well renown for her comic contribution to both film and TV and, among many of her other projects, has worked extensively with Shaun Micallef. She has now successfully written, produced and toured (both in Australia and internationally) her own one woman show, Full Blown Rose – a play with 6 characters, all of which she played with the narrative being woven through the various monologues. This is, she says, the professional achievement of which she is most proud.
Reeves has been described as one of Australia's most accomplished playwrights and, according to MTC Associate Director, Aidan Fennessy, the play is 'one of the most awkward and doomed courtships ever seen on stage.' Hammond says that working on a new play is always tough. "It’s uncharted waters and establishing what the play is and what it isn’t, takes time – which of course, you don’t have! It’s a lovely company though and great to be working with a cast of different backgrounds, cultures and experience."
Happy Ending at MTC, Lawler studio
September 5 – 22