peteg's blog - noise - theatre - 2010 09 04 GwenInPurgatory

Belvoir: Gwen in Purgatory

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I hadn't been upstairs at Belvoir for ages. I went to this Saturday matinee courtesy of a freebie from Palace Cinemas. My membership has now paid for itself twice over.

The central ambit of this play is the life of the aged matriarch coming to terms with her own mortality, the conniving of her children and grandchildren, the unearthing of old family issues and unhealed wounds. In many ways it reminded me of David Williamson's The Club. Melissa Jaffer is fantastic in the lead role, and the others are good enough to carry it along, but I found myself spacing out as there were too many set-piece revelatory plot devices, and simply too much talking. I don't think anyone in the audience would be challenged by any of the themes here; Codgers presented the generational attitudes towards race with more flair. The jokes are sometimes original but often reworkings of the familiar. The family's Catholicism is satirised in a vaguely insincere way, or to borrow a Keatingism, flagellated with a warm lettuce. There's not much tension.

As one would expect the production is great with a single simple and effective set. The target demographic is certainly the cashed up greying boomers who made up more than half the audience. For those reasons it is easy to beatify the play, as Jason Blake does in the SMH, but it really isn't that deep. So perhaps it will end up a classic, though I don't think there is much of the old Mother and Son magic here. (Heh, it seems Jaffer played Cracknell's younger sister in that.)