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MLM is for Murder - Garrick Theatre

Reviewed by Kate O'Sullivan

 

How much are you willing to give up to get everything you’ve ever wanted? That is one of the core questions of Garrick Theatre's current production, the Australian premiere of John Bavoso's "MLM is for Murder (Or, Your Side Hustle is Killing Us)".


It's always nice to see a new modern script tread the boards that has relatability to our day-to-day lives. The throughlines around the prevalence of multi-level marketing schemes and everyone seeming to have their own podcast make the characters relatable, and thus some of the things that happen to them all the more revealing. Some of it is a little far-fetched, but that’s all part of the heightening of the scenarios to give us a peek behind the curtain. This script is full of nuances and nods towards the setting in southern Utah, but unfortunately, a lot of these were skimmed past, or just didn’t land with the audience. They also were probably not helped by the use of the Australian accent. There was a lovely announcement at the beginning about the “similarity” of the southern Utah and Australian accents, which helped set the audience's expectations, but a lot of the references to Mormonism and some of the uniquely American elements get lost in the script.


The overarching plot of the show centres on two women: Felicity Evanston (portrayed by Carly Ranger), a stay-at-home Mormon mother-of-two, and Minerva Ross (played by Ali McNamara), a graphic designer with an obsession for true crime podcasts. Both did well to construct these characters as believable and added good layers to their character throughout the show, as the rest of their lives were falling apart around them. The contrast between the two roles was well handled by the performers, with the podcast scene late in the show a real highlight of the chemistry and yet contrast of the characters.


Fiona Forster, as we have come to expect, gives us a range of different characters across the show, all of which are high-energy and clearly delineated. Erin Shay-Horrigan and Liam Smith give us solid interpretations of the partners who suffer through their spouses' decisions. Both performers give lovely moments and choices for their respective characters, but do feel uncomfortable in some scenes, especially in the more intimate, long-relationship-driven moments. This may be down to the short rehearsal period for this show, which didn’t allow for the relationships and chemistry to form naturally between the performers and for them to settle into their roles fully.


In terms of set, it is a fairly simple box set, with the use of the large revolve to switch between scenes. Whilst a good idea in theory, in practice this leads to very long scene changes with little payoff for the time taken, as we go from one beige room to another. It also means that a lot of the set pieces despite suiting the different characters and the rooms we find them in felt small in the space, as they have to remain on the revolve. This could have been mediated with creative lighting - different colour schemes for the different locations etc. - but, on the whole, the rooms feel flat and not as bright and interesting as the script might indicate they could be. There are moments where the lighting does lift the show, such as the segmentation of Felicity and Minerva in the podcast scene, but it isn’t used as consistently as it could be. Having some more variety in the costuming, to push the characters more firmly into their archetypes, would have helped lift the energy and overall atmosphere of the show as well. In general, the costumes work well with some nice details like the Lady Killers t-shirts (created for the show), and the "truly hideous but perfect" leggings.


It’s always hard when a show is a replacement for a cancelled season. Garrick Theatre has done well to find an interesting script and get it on its feet in a short time frame. If you’re looking for a show with relatable characters and conversations you’ve likely had before, this is one to head out to see.

Carly Ranger (Felicity Evanston). Image provided by Garrick Theatre.

Reviewer Note: Kate has previously performed with Liam Smith. Tickets for this review were provided by the theatre company.

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