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Ladies Who Wait - Off The Wall

Reviewed by Kate O'Sullivan

 

It is always nice to see new Australian works on the stage here, especially those written locally and featuring local talent. Off The Wall Productions have brought just that with their current show, Ladies Who Wait, a look at some of the behind-the-scenes moments in the Tudor courts of King Henry VIII and Mary I.


With an almost all-female cast (with the exception of Roger, the guard, played by David Wall), this show has some wonderful examples of the talent pool in Perth. Jennifer McGrath is high energy in both her roles, as Catherine of Aragon and Mary I, and is beautifully contrasted by the restrained performance of Emily Howe as Anne Boleyn. The interplay between Emily's Anne against Fiona Forster and Colleen Bradford's rough and tumble Agnes and Alice, allows for some lovely moments where that restraint is cracked open and we see the emotions of a woman about to go to her death. The real highlight, however, is Maree Cole as both Jane Seymour and Elizabeth I. With starkly contrasting portrayals in each act, she manages to tread the fine line between realism and the tongue-in-cheek energy the show requires, giving us a hilariously saccharine and dim Jane Seymour to contrast Anne Boleyn, and a grounded Elizabeth I against an hysterical Mary I.


The show originated as a 10-minute one-act play for Short and Sweet and has been extended into the two-act play currently being presented. This move to an elongated script allows us more time with the characters and their stories but also brings its own challenges. With Acts 1 and 2 being set 22 years apart (in 1536 and 1558 respectively), there is a bit of disjointedness, with the two acts feeling like two separate one-act plays. Act 1 has more farcical energy once it gets going, whereas Act 2 gives us moments of hysteria right alongside moments of realism, making the two acts feel a little less connected than perhaps intended. There are moments in both acts where all the performers connect and give us wonderful nuance (with particular acknowledgment to the fight between Elizabeth and Mary in Act 2), but there are also times where the energies of the performances don't gel together, and we feel like we're not sure what kind of show we are watching. The show may have worked better as a longer, one-act play with a quick set change, rather than the full break at the interval interrupting the flow of the show.


The set is deceptively simple, a flat with a door and a couple of chairs and tables, but it is effective in giving the actors enough room to move as well as flexibility for the more comedic moments. There is also the use of a smoke machine, which is effective in the first moments of the show but doesn't seem to add anything particular to the show long term and is not used at all in the second half. The decorative lighting of the Tudor rose and some of the effects lighting are good, but it would have been nice to see the lighting add more atmosphere in some moments (such as in the appearance of Catherine of Aragon) and to add a sense of difference in the 22 year time skip. Whilst some make-up is used effectively, such as the eyebrows of Catherine of Aragon, some of it feels a bit muddy and unfocused and doesn't add to the otherwise clear aesthetic choices that have been made. On the other hand, the costuming is a highlight, as we have come to expect from Hustle and Bustle Costuming, with Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I's costumes being high points.


On the whole, though, this show is a fun romp that doesn’t take itself too seriously. With the remainder of their run already sold out, this show is clearly going to be a hit with audiences. A good night out for those who love some tongue-in-cheek humour, and all the drama that comes along with the royal court in Tudor England.


Maree Cole as Jane Seymour in Ladies Who Wait. Photo Credit: Curtain Call Creatives

Reviewer Note: Kate has previously worked with Yvette Wall in 2021 at Irish Theatre Players. Tickets for this review were provided by the production company.

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