In the midst of a chilly winter, a delightfully hilarious play has fallen from the comedy heavens into the laps of audiences at the Tea Tree Players Theatre.
Robert Andrews has directed a well-paced production of Alan Ayckbourn’s Roleplay in which a couple, Julie-Ann Jobson (Nicole Walker) and Justin Lazenby (Nick Endenburg), is planning a special dinner party in their apartment so they can announce their engagement to their parents; Derek Jobson (John Hudson), Dee Jobson (Gigi Jeffers), and Aarabella Lazenby (Theresa Lilly Dolman).
It seems like it is going to be a good, albeit slightly tense night, as we watch Julie-Ann’s anxious perfectionism and parental kowtowing start to get under the skin of the more laid back Justin.
But then the playwright throws chaos into the mix when an exotic dancer, Paige Petite (Kaila Barton), literally falls into the couple’s apartment while escaping from her violent boyfriend’s penthouse above. This, in turn, leads to the boyfriend’s enforcer, Micky Rale (Tim Cousins), gatecrash the apartment to keep tabs on Paige until the boyfriend returns.
This is a recipe for farce at its finest, with Ayckbourn not only crafting a dynamic gathering of square pegs, but also imbuing the play with moments of drama that give poignant pause to the hilarity.
Each actor has their moment to shine in this play with Walker perfectly creating a character who is akin to the sound of fingernails scraping across a blackboard, full of paranoia and emotional blackmail, while Endenburg’s eye rolls were enjoyably telegraphed throughout the many hits and twists that his character endured.
The parents were all delightful, too, but Cousins and Barton really held sway, not only with the brash moments of intrusion but with their interactions when not at the centre of the dialogue.
Interestingly, it is the hapless “dancer”, Paige, who becomes the most endearing character for many people in the audience. Ayckburn equips her with some depth to add counterweight to the frivolity, and Barton’s comfort in her own skin to completely become her character without an ounce of visible self-consciousness when draped in scant and torn clothing. It was an absorbing performance.
Hats off to the team behind the set design and construction: Robert Andrews, Samuel Creighton, Tim Cousins, Kaila Barton, Lilly, John Hudson, Graham Johns, and Daniel Toy. They created a wow-factor rich, modern apartment interior, with bar and kitchen island, lounge area, and skyline balcony (which took some punishment from Micky). It was believable and detailed, without stealing focus. The action was perfectly accompanied by intelligent sound design (Mike Phillips), and Caitlin White made sure backstage ran smoothly.
As a final thought, the casting was perfect for this play, each player carried their roles with aplomb and they were richly and rightfully rewarded with wave after wave of guffaws from the appreciative and well-entertained audience.
Mask up and treat yourself to a night of rollicking entertainment. This is community theatre, generously made, and our community should be rightly proud of this troupe.