Mixed Doubles – An Entertainment on Marriage is a series of vignettes presented by The Brisbane Arts Theatre, for better or worse.
Written by various English playwrights including Alan Ayckbourn, Alun Owen, David Campton, Fay Weldon, Harold Pinter, James Saunders, John Bowen, Lyndon Brook & George Melly, the short plays and monologues take us from newly wed jitters to a silver anniversary melt down and arguments over headstones. Not just a few laughs but also more than a few poignant moments that wonderfully reflect the little games we play and the cruel wear and tear that can be experienced in a relationship. Hitting the ‘I’ve-been-there’ funny bone and the sometimes uncomfortable ‘make-it-stop’ familiarity of the bitter, sad and hurtful moments that strike like a knife to the heart.
It’s hard to remember and match the 16 plays to their titles in the programme, as some of the entries aren’t as descriptive as others. Favourites were Countdown, the play with the elderly couple making a cup of tea (Damien Campagnolo and Bronwyn Morrow), who hadn’t laughed in so long that they’d forgotten what attracted them to each other in the first place. The two parallel conversations of the character’s inner thought soliloquies intertwined into their dialogue, added an interesting layer to this story.
The Union Rep (Damien Campagnolo) was also enjoyable to watch. Again, the juxtaposing conversations between the hard-nosed rep on the phone to a client and talking to his family made the performance both interesting and humorous. And for some reason, accents always make things funnier, The Psychoanalyst (Greg Scurr) was another case in point. Resting Place was a charming piece in which Alex Lanham was endearing as he put up with his wife (Bronwyn Morrow), who seemed to love to visit a place which only seemed to upset her.
A couple of the interlacing monologues, however, could have done with the snip. The Bank Manager sketch about financial stress and the fact that “you can’t afford it” was sign posted from the beginning. Considering the air-conditioning wasn’t working during the first act, the audience may not have been so forgiving and willing to sit politely through a piece which didn’t really say a lot or explore the issue in depth. The same could be said for The Director, which had a few one-liners but not much else. Actor Rebecca Elise Lamb did a great job with the material given, remembering which line went with which camera angle was a master-piece in memory, but the text just didn’t have enough substance to it.
In fact all the actors did a fantastic job; their characterisations vivid, accents spot-on and their comic timing well placed. What I love about going to see shows at The Arts Theatre is the nurturing of new and emerging talent, who constantly pop up in their shows alongside more experienced actors. The cast of ten included Martin Anderson, John Bolton, Damien Campagnolo, Katrina Holmes, Rebecca Elise Lamb, Tanya Manderson, Tamara McLaughlin, Bronwyn Morrow, and Greg Scurr. Director Alex Lanham did a good job to set each scene quickly, as did the set designer Chancie Jessop, lighting designer Cameron Smith and sound designer Ruby Tuesday, who efficiently gave a sense of environment for all 16 vignettes.
Mixed Doubles will be playing at The Arts Theatre until 1st March. For details or bookings visit The Arts Theatre website: artstheatre.com.au.