Queensland Theatre Company breathe life back into the beloved Australian TV series Mother and Son as they present the live-on-stage adaptation at QPAC.
The original writer of the series Geoffrey Atherden wrote the stage adaptation; not as a direct copy and paste, but brought the play into the now with the use of mobile phones and other contemporary cultural references. The use of projected skype calls between Maggie, her grandchildren, son, and daughter-in-law also upgraded the script. I have to give a nod to whoever came up with the idea of ‘video the kids once’ and not have them be part of the live cast every night. The producer, I’m sure was delighted.
It was lovely to see Atherden take a bow at the opening night curtain call. Often playwrights are the unsung heroes to many stage plays and it is apt that he be given recognition for his contribution to the Australian entertainment industry.
The storyline follows Arthur as he tries to plan for a special (and much deserved) vacation away with his new girlfriend Anita, while the forces of the universe, ie. Maggie and his scheming brother (whose apple doesn’t fall far from the tree), blow all sorts of obstacles into his path.
With such an iconic hit sitcom, it is hard to divorce Ruth Cracknell and Garry McDonald from the lead roles, but enough time has passed for us to enjoy these characters anew with actors who bring their own flavor to the roles while keeping the essence of the characters they portray.
Noeline Brown does a brilliant job as the absent minded Maggie Beare, and Darren Gilshshenan as the dutiful overworked and under-appreciated son Arthur. Playing Robbie, the dentist and Maggie’s most beloved son, is Rob Carlton, who was superb in the role, as was Nikki Wendt playing the role of Robbie’s wife Liz. She’s the type of character you love to hate, and had a very strong presence onstage.
Playing Arthur’s girlfriend Anita is Rachel Beck, who is very well versed in the Australian sitcom style, although she has spent the last few years as one of Australia’s leading ladies of musical theatre. It was also lovely to see Robyn Arthur play a small but well played comic role as one of the ladies in the respite centre.
The set (designed by Shaun Gurton), was placed in the kitchen and living areas of Maggie’s house. With the exposed set behind, I wonder if this was a designer’s nod to the TV set, and the intention to give off the feeling that we were part of the studio audience.
Overall, a nice trip down memory lane, yet can stand alone as enjoyable night even if you haven’t seen the show.
Mother and Son plays at QPAC’s Playhouse until 15 March. For more information, Visit the QPAC website.